Partners at Birth

DadKissingNewbornMany partners find themselves in completely uncharted territory when it comes to what to expect with maternity care as well as labor and childbirth.

Here we hope to offer some insight and no-nonsense advice for mastering and navigating pregnancy and out of hospital birth.  We have collected the most frequently asked questions to which partners-to-be want answers.

For further reading, Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner and Rose St. John’s Fathers at Birth are two excellent books among those catered to birth partners.  Many childbirth education classes offer great information and support to fathers/partners attending birth (we offer a class specifically for families planning to birth with us!).

What? My wife/partner wants to have the baby where? Is it safe to have my baby out-of-hospital?

If your partner is a normal, healthy pregnant woman, the answer is YES. Research shows that having a baby in a birthing center or at home with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) is as safe as, and in some cases, safer than, having your baby in a hospital.

If we have our baby at home…isn’t it messy?

On average we fill one to two kitchen sized trash bags with trash from the birth. We use the same disposable pads that are used in the hospital to catch any fluids. Our midwives do a great job of cleaning up after the birth and start a load of laundry for you before we leave. When all is said and done you would never even know a birth happened in your home.

What about cost? Is it expensive to have a baby at home or in a birthing center?

We offer a package price for your prenatal, labor & delivery, and postpartum care that is often less expensive than choosing other birthing options. We also offer a billing service that files your insurance claim for you after the birth of your baby. Remember, this is the only time you and your partner are going to experience this birth, and sometimes it’s worth paying more to get the birth you want. 

I am scared I will pass out at the sight of blood. Have you ever had a partner keel over?

We have never had a dad pass out.*** Normally you are so involved in what is going on that you don’t have time to get faint. For dads who think it is a possibility, we have you stay near your partner’s head and focus on supporting her through each contraction. If you do pass out, we are there to help and you will have a memorable birth story to tell your little one as they get older!

***Actually, this is not true anymore! One of our dear dads passed out twice at a recent birth!  We assure you this is not a common experience however!

How will I know what my partner wants me to do when she is in labor?

It is important to talk with your partner about her expectations for you at the birth as well as what role you would like to play. The more the two of you have talked, the easier it will be to meet those expectations in labor and have the birth experience both of you envision. At Health Foundations, partners can be as involved in the birth process as they want. Some options to consider include helping catch the baby and cutting the cord. Or if you’d prefer to leave all that to the professionals, that is fine too.

OK really…how long is it going to be?

Labor often involves a lot of waiting. The average birth lasts approximately twelve hours. You might spend several hours rubbing her back, counting to ten, offering her water, and supporting her in whatever position she choses to labor in.

Is there an instruction manual to tell me what I need to know and should be doing?

It can be pretty nerve-wracking to know your partner expects you to help her get through labor when you haven’t got a clue what it will be like or how to help. Our best advice is to attend a childbirth preparation class with your partner. Childbirth classes will help teach you how to work as a team, give you pain coping techniques to help coach her through contractions and give you an idea of what to expect. In addition have put together a few universal tips:

  • A laboring woman is always right.
  • Don’t ask a woman questions during a contraction. She will be annoyed with you.
  • Most women do not appreciate jokes when they are in labor.
  • Most women do not like their bellies touched during a contraction.
  • Don’t go to sleep unless she gives you the OK. She is working hard and has to stay awake. She will expect the same from you.
  • If something helps her during contractions (like rubbing her back), start it as soon as the contraction begins. Starting half way through a contraction is not helpful.
  • Laboring women are sometimes only able to get their thoughts across in one or two words and are often very direct in labor. If she tells you to STOP doing something stop. If she tells you to do something, do it right away.
  • She needs encouragement. Tell her she is strong and doing a good job.

My partner keeps talking about having a doula at the birth. Isn’t having our midwife and her assistant enough?

The pressure of being a super-coach in labor is taken away when you have a doula. A doula’s role is not to replace the dad or partner but to allow them to be involved in the birth at a level that is comfortable for them. The support a dad or partner can provide is irreplaceable. It is not fair, however, to expect them to retain every technique taught in their childbirth class. It is like asking someone who has never watched or played a football game to coach Monday Night Football with only a brief training session and a playbook. Parents who use doulas can shift the burden of remembering details from childbirth class and their birth plan onto the doula’s shoulders. They are free to follow their instincts and let the doula guide them when they need it.

What should I do after the birth?

  • Tell your partner you love and are proud of her.
  • Some dads give their partner flowers or a special gift to commemorate the special event.
  • Help her care for the baby. You can’t nurse the baby, but you can hold the baby so she can sleep. Arrange for someone else to help so you can both get some rest.
  • Hold the baby so she is able to take a shower.
  • Watch for signs of unusual sadness that might indicate postpartum depression.


Ten Tips for Partners at Birth

dad at birth 2While we tend to focus on preparing mama for birth, it is also essential that papas, partners or any other labor supporters to feel prepared.  While it would take the length of a book (or more) to fully prepare papas and partners for the birth experience, here are ten quick and easy essentials to keep in mind.

1.  Be responsive to your partner’s cues and protect her space.  Follow her lead.  Do what you can to ensure she is feeling safe and supported.  Keep the lights dim, the room quiet and the atmosphere calm.

2.  Minimize questions, distractions, and instructions (from yourself and others) especially during contractions.  Don’t take silence personally, it is probably a sign that she is going inside and focusing on the monumental task she is undertaking.  Silence is often a really good sign.

3.  Help her to be comfortable.  Suggest position changes regularly.  Observe her alignment and support her head, torso, low back, arms, hips, knees, and feet as needed.  Keep her warm, but offer ice packs or a cool cloth if she gets too warm.  Use comfort techniques you’ve learned together before the birth.

4.  Maintain your center and your stability.  Find your own breath.  Tend to yourself so that you can tend to her.  Do so discreetly so it doesn’t serve as a distraction.

5.  Take her to the bathroom hourly.

6.  Help her keep the pitch of her voice low and monitor her facial and physical tension.  Help her relax.

7.  Give her encouragement and tell her you love her.  You might even kiss if it feels right.  Feelings of love from mama help her release oxytocin, which can help with labor.

8.  If her breathing gets rapid, shallow and panicked, model a slow, even, deeper breath for her.  Maybe try to make eye contact with her as you do this, it can help to ground her.

9.  Keep her hydrated and nourished.  Offer regular sips of water (you can do so without words).  Offer labor snacks in early and active labor.

10. Help her maintain her rhythm.  Let her find what works best for her and find ways to support her there until its time for her rhythm to change again.

What other advice would you give to papas and partners for labor & birth?