Dear support person – you have a fabulously important role to play!
I read an article this week on The Sydney Morning Herald‘s parenting offshoot website, Essential Baby. It was written by a Dad, for Dads, about their role in birth and how best to support their partner (see article here).
Mucous plugs, wedding ring indentation marks and encouraging mantras aside, the crux of the article, was about the importance of silent support and the safety of having a loved one by your side.
So we’re going to share with you a few birth tips as well, but firstly, a quick breakdown, hormonally of what’s happening in labour and birth.
Two hormones play a massive part in labour and birth, these being Oxytocin and Adrenaline. Oxytocin, otherwise known as the ‘love hormone’, is released in moments of bonding; hugging, kissing, breastfeeding, sex….and is also what brings on contractions, helping to dilate the cervix, move bub down the birth canal, as well as deliver the placenta.
Adrenaline on the other hand, is our ‘fight or flight hormone’, that mammals produce primally for survival. Fear produces adrenaline. And unfortunately, adrenaline inhibits oxytocin which can make labour slower, more painful, or panic the woman (and let’s face it, the partner)…potentially leading to intervention or increased pain relief?
So naturally, if you think about when Oxytocin is released, it’s at moments of intimacy; when you’re in a safe and private environment. So why would birth be any different? It’s not! Enter dear support person – you have a fabulously important role to play!
A few tips:
- Try to keep the room quiet (not the woman,though; trying to control her would be like trying to stop a steamroller in its tracks…not good, not good). But being mindful of phones…people coming in and out of the room and the volume of your voice (I’m particularly mindful of this, considering my boom-box voice, especially when I’m excited or stressed).
- Keep the room dark – particularly for labour. As a woman’s cervix dilates, her pupils dilate, making her more light sensitive.
- Touch her…not in a creepy, handsy way. You’re both in a foreign environment and and not having babies every day of the week, so it can be a bit unsettling to see her in pain, and frightening for both of you.
Holding her hand, giving her a kiss (this is a great one – oxytocin booster, intimate, makes her feel safe, reduces adrenaline, and is a way to show her support), and massage are all ways in which to let her know you’re there.
- When a woman is ‘transitioning’ into second stage of labour, the massages that she’s been loving…the baths that’ve been helping…the pregnancy ball rocking….the topic of conversation…the words of encouragement…ALL OF A SUDDEN, SHE MAY HATE! When this occurs, don’t be upset or worried, see this as a sign of progress and that bub might not be too far off. Just being next to her, so when she opens her eyes she sees you there, can be all she needs in that moment in time.
- Be her advocate. Know what pain relief she wants. If she has said 3,000,000 times in pregnancy that she doesn’t want an epidural, and someone keeps banging on about it and offering it to her, be her advocate.
On the other hand, knowledge is key. I truly believe the best birth plan is no birth plan, but an informed pregnancy. If you both know the ladder of pain relief (blog post on this is on it’s way) then you’re able to take labour and birth as it comes, starting with non-pharmacological relief and slowly working your way up to the big guns.
- Last but not least, know your limits. If you’re one of those people that are a bit queasy, hate needles or aren’t crash hot with blood, tell the midwife or obstetrician. Be proactive and have a chair (up the top end of the bed) ready, and sit down and support if you you start feeling giddy. No one needs you in E.D!
(All photos published in this blog article, were taken by the talented Lindsey Kliewer)
Do We Need Midwives? By Michel Odent (2015)
The importance of privacy in labour
Birth and Breastfeeding By Michel Odent (2003)
We must put the sex back into birth – Ted Talk, By Kate Dimpfl