I recently read a controversial article which debated whether dads should be present at the birth of their children, commenting that this now normal expectation has been forced upon them and their presence could hinder rather than help the birth process. As a hypnobirthing practitioner, I found this surprising. Without exception, all the birth partners I have met during my teaching, men and women, have proven this to be completely wrong. They have all wanted to be fully involved, looking for information, wanting to support their partners in the best way possible and finding a way to do just that.
If your partner is expecting a baby, how are you feeling about the upcoming birth? Are you excited or anxious? A mixture of both? Are you dreading the antenatal classes or looking forward to learning all about birth? Are you feeling a bit like a spare part? Are you clear what is expected from you or unsure where to get the answers you need? Whatever you are feeling, you are not alone.
Dads are present in more than 90% of births and yet the importance of their needs and feelings can be underestimated in many traditional antenatal courses. The birth partner’s feelings about birth and their responses during labour has the potential to significantly influence the birthing environment, mum’s state of mind and ultimately how labour and birth progress:
The hormones that are essential for a woman in childbirth are oxytocin and endorphins. Oxytocin, the hormone of love and calm, causes the muscles of the uterus to surge whilst the endorphins are the body’s natural pain relief. We know that adrenaline is our fear response, the enemy of oxytocin and to be avoided during active labour. But oxytocin and adrenaline are contagious. So if a birth partner is anxious, fearful of labour, unsure of their role and how to support their partner, they are likely to respond in an adrenaline fuelled way. On the other hand, a well-informed, confident birth partner is truly invaluable and can really change for the better the path a birth may take.
In hypnobirthing, our focus is as much on preparation for birth partners as it is for mums to be. Whatever antenatal preparation you choose, making sure that birth partners get all the support and information they need is arguably the best thing you can do. To get you started, have a look at the tips below to help you prepare for the birth of your baby.
Antenatal Preparation for Birth Partners - Hints and Tips
1. Make sure you understand the birth process, what is happening for mum and what she needs, to be able to birth effectively. By understanding what is happening in the body and mind for a woman in childbirth it is much easier to know what you can do to support your partner
2. Be honest about how you are feeling about the birth, any fears, concerns. If there is something that worries you, you have time to work on that, find the information or support that you need. If you are not able to attend hypnobirthing and antenatal courses there are still plenty of good sources of information at your disposal. https://www.sophrosynebirth.com/useful-links-and-resources
3. Think about how you can create the environment which is most conducive to mum’s relaxation and comfort. If you don’t know where to start, maybe work through all the senses one by one: sounds, smells, taste, touch and sight. Do this together as a couple to find what works best for the both of you
4. Protect mum’s physical and mental space as much as you are able to. Be the first point of contact with everyone - medical team, family, friends and speak for mum so she can remain undisturbed from her inward focus
5. Your presence might be the one thing which reassures mum the most. Remember that no matter how many relaxation and massage techniques we may share with you, you are her continuity of care throughout this whole process. Do not underestimate how important just being there or the sound of your voice might be
6. Make a birth plan together. Birth can be unpredictable. However much preparation we do, real life does not always follow our plan. This doesn’t prevent you having the best possible birth you can. Take time as a couple to make a birth plan together so you know you are fully aligned on what is important for you
7. Understand the common interventions in labour, why these might be suggested to you and think about the questions that you might want to ask on behalf of you both. For any decisions you are faced with remember your BRAIN - Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instincts, do Nothing.
8. Remember you are an expert too. Regardless of how many other experts there are in the room, you have knowledge and expertise that they do not; you know the mother of your child and together you have already spent nine months getting to know your baby. Your voice and opinions are important and should be listened to.
Here you can find the checklist we share with the birth partners who attend the hypnobirthing course with us. Feel free to take advantage of this free resource to help you prepare and best of luck for your upcoming birth.