There are few challenges in life that take more of a physical and mental toll than giving birth, and making sure that a mother has someone to support her through this challenge is an important part of ensuring the experience is as safe and calm as possible. The role of birthing partner should not be taken lightly; plenty of people who do it feel they were quite unprepared for just how demanding a job it would be. Here is some advice for prospective birthing partners, on what to be prepared for, how best to support the mother and what to do in event of medical negligence.
Preparation is Key
If you have been asked to be someone’s birthing partner, and have never been present for, or even seen footage of childbirth, then take the plunge and prepare yourself. Extreme medical situations like delivery can catch some people unawares, and the levels of noise, pain and stress involved can be a shock to the system. So take steps to prepare yourself for the reality of childbirth: read pregnancy books, watch documentaries, and get online to watch people’s birthing videos. It is a good idea to explore a variety of birthing scenarios, including c-sections and birthing pools, to make sure you are prepared for any eventuality. You may find it helpful to attend the mother’s antenatal classes with her, where you will be taught by an experienced midwife to support the mother through labour and delivery.
Be Up To Date
Do what you can to be fully up to date on the characteristics of the pregnancy. If you don’t attend midwife and hospital appointments, at least make sure that you get reported back to on any developments or things that could impact the birthing process. Staying informed on any issues that might affect the birth and your role in it helps you to ensure you are as supportive as you can be. If you have any specific questions about what you can do as a birthing partner, take a minute to talk to a midwife or other healthcare professional and ask them any questions.
Being Ready for Action
Childbirth is a notoriously unpredictable process, so as the mother’s due date approaches, it is wise to maintain a state of readiness as much as is possible. Be prepared for anything that might crop up: have an overnight bag packed with anything you or the mother may require at the hospital, and make sure it is easily accessible. Do what you can to stay well fed and rested – get early nights and try to avoid skipping meals, as supporting someone through birth on an empty stomach will only make your job more difficult. You may even wish to have a lunchbox packed up, in case you need some food on the go. Make sure you keep your phone charged and don’t put it on silent if you are in the habit of doing so, and take care to keep your car keys in a safe and accessible place. The less running around you have to do when the time comes, the better.
As a birthing partner, it is important that you look out for the mother’s best interests during this challenging time, and this means doing things the way she wants. Get the mother to talk you through her birth plan, and take a copy of it that you can familiarise yourself with ahead of time. Give regard to her requirements: does she want to avoid physical contact, or will she find massage soothing? Would she prefer the room to be as quiet as possible, or would music help? What forms of pain relief does she want? It is important to do your best to plan for every possibility, as the middle of labour will not be the time to be asking her to reiterate her preferences.
Do Your Best
Labour and delivery are not easy for anyone, and loved ones acting as birthing partners can find it a difficult experience. The sight of someone you care about in great pain – especially when there is nothing you can do to help them – can be distressing, and it is not likely that the birthing process will be an entirely pleasant or easy experience for anyone involved. But as long as you are steadfast in prioritising the mother, and supporting her in a compassionate and patient manner, and prepared for the realities of being a birthing partner, that is really all that can be asked of you. Don’t forget: the mother asked you to support her during this difficult time for a good reason, so just respect her wishes, have her back, and do the best you can.
Handling the Unexpected
We are fortunate to live in a country with one of the world’s most advanced health services, and that childbirth is a safer process than ever before. However, it is still a major medical process, and there is scope for difficulty. It is not a pleasant topic to linger on, but a brief conversation about how the mother would want unexpected complications to be handled is worthwhile, and in the unlikely event of something going wrong, already having an idea of what the mother would prefer can help to alleviate some of the stresses of emergency situations. Should the mother you are supporting be affected by injury or illness as a result of the birthing process and the medical care she received, an external expert opinion should sought at the earliest convenience, particularly with regards to clinical negligence claims advice in the United Kingdom.
Childbirth is safer than ever, with ninety-five per cent of women with low-risk pregnancies giving birth without the need for emergency medical intervention, and without complication. As a birthing partner, you have strong back-up in the form of highly experienced medical professionals, and the likelihood is that the process will go well, and you will have helped the mother through one of the most significant experiences of her life. Having been chosen, you obviously already possess the qualities she was looking for in her birthing partner, so just take steps to prepare yourself physically and mentally for this challenge, and don’t lose focus on supporting your friend through this life-changing time.