by Anna Bartels, TCM apprentice
It is not uncommon for partners and spouses to feel “left-out” during pregnancy and labor. During the preparation for birth and beyond, with prenatal appointments and baby showers, there is often an unintentional lack of focus on involving a partner. Many men have reported receiving most of the information on pregnancy and birth secondhand from their partners. One survey of over 800 fathers found that one-third respondents reported needing more information on coping and pain relief strategies to utilize with their partner during labor. Involving the partner as an integral part of the entire process can have very positive outcomes for both the pregnant mother, her partner, and the child, including better relationships between partners and spouses, more comfortable and trusting birthing experiences, and positive impacts on the relationships between partners and children.
Today, most birth preparation classes talk about a connection between tension and/or fear and pain during the birth process, called the “fear-tension-pain” cycle by Grantly Dick-Read, the author of “Childbirth Without Fear.” Pregnancy and birth can be a source of high levels of stress and fear for partners, as well, and some birth professionals posit that “although a man cannot feel the same pain as the laboring woman…many men experience a similar cycle of emotions in the birthing place (Hazard, 2010).” This cycle, experienced by a partner, can influence the energy of a pregnancy or birth process and a plan for involving partners in the birth process can help to assuage the effects of this cycle. Create the space for an open dialogue about what the laboring mother will want from her partner during birth and also what questions or needs the partner may have. Partners and spouses who are well-prepared for pregnancy and birth report fewer fears of seeing their partners in pain and report more positive birth experiences overall.
Here at Twin Cities Midwifery, we want all partners to get the information they need and to feel like an integral part of the birth process. We encourage partner involvement, and we enjoy getting to know partners during prenatal visits so that we can best support partners, as well as laboring mothers, during the labor, birth, and postpartum time. Below are some great ways for partners to be an important part of pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Attend prenatal appointments- we love having partners around, to share their perspectives and to answer any questions they may have.
Attend birthing classes together- we are happy to recommend some options
Go to a prenatal massage and ask for instruction on massage techniques
Encourage open communication- ask questions, share your feelings and concerns. Assess what your particular sources of stress may be and work on ways to address them
Write a birth plan together- what things are important to BOTH of you?
Read some homebirth stories from a fathers perspective: http://www.homebirth.org.uk/blokes.htm
During labor and birth
Help set up needed supplies
Call and communicate with your midwife
Put to use those massage techniques you learned
Communicate openly with the birth team
Consider helping catch the baby
Advocate for the new mother- what does she need? What does baby need?
Arrange for people to cook, clean, provide childcare or take your pets out
Advocate for alone time with your partner and your baby
Create space for breastfeeding – whether at home or away
Revel in your baby- skin-to-skin contact- get to know your new little one!
As a partner, your role is not to be an all-knowing individual in the room. Take the time to self-reflect about what some of your stressors are related to an upcoming birth experience. What questions do you need to have answered before the birth and what does the laboring mama need from you. The laboring woman’s partner most important role is that of a lover. There isn’t a need for classes or books to teach this role, it is something that a partner does every day. “Just be yourself. Just love your partner. It’s you she wants at the birth, not someone else’s idea of a labor coach. You.” (2010).
Father’s Homebirth Handbook: http://www.amazon.com/Fathers-Home-Birth-Handbook/dp/190517750X
A Dad’s Journey into Homebith: http://www.indiebirth.com/downloads/dadhomebirthjourneysample.pdf
The Birth Partner: http://www.amazon.com/The-Birth-Partner-Third-Edition/dp/1558323570
Fathers and Homebirth: http://www.homebirth.org.uk/blokes.htm
Hazard, Leah. (2010) Beyond Fear, Tension, and Panic: Helping Men Enjoy the Birth Experience. Midwifery Today 95(Autumn)
Singh D, Newburn M (2000) Becoming a father: men’s access to information and support about pregnancy, birth, and life with a new baby London: National Childbirth Trust
Wilson, Lois (1999) It’s You She Wants. Midwifery Today 51(Autumn)
Wockel-A, Schafer-E, Beggel-A, et al. (2007) Getting ready for birth: impending fatherhood. British Journal of Midwifery 15(6) 344-8.