Forging Families’ poster about how to be a great birth companion

Dads, relaxation and being a great birthing companion

by Lesley Carter

The watch word in pregnancy and labour is about how to relax and then how to keep it going through labour. The reason for this is the important hormone Oxytocin….the calming and happy hormone if you like. Its your job, and not to be underestimated about how important this is, to help this flow as much as possible throughout labour. Oxytocin disappears if fear and tension creep in.  If this happens, then labour can slow up and potentially stop.  So how do you do this? Here is a list of things to be getting on with now and into the labour room and beyond. Its not a full guide, but just some pointers to help you begin to know how to help and what you might like to research further

Talk with your partner about what makes her feel good and calm and relaxed. Find out if she likes her feet or back rubbed or both or something else. She might like you to do this during labour to help distract or keep her relaxed. What she likes in one moment might not be the same in the next moment, so be prepared to be flexible on this. The more you know before hand the better.

  • Keep her favourite smells and music to hand to play, and again talk about this during pregnancy
  • Keep the environment safe and secure with low lights as much as possible, minimum noise, minimum talking or asking (preferably no) questions. The reason for this is to keep the oxytocin flowing.
  • If you have opted for water birth then the pool is fabulous for relaxation and pain relief as water is soothing, and waters lessens the impact of gravity on your partner during birthing. If this is not an option you might like to use water to help relaxation, like bathing, or showering, or maybe pouring water over shoulders for example.
  • Learn how breathing helps relaxation. Breathing from the lower abdomen, and in through the nose and then out through the mouth, slow and steady helps to get through a contraction. Help her keep breathing steady and counting can be helpful for in and out breaths. Breathing in tandem with your partner can help keep the focus and relaxation going. Sometimes, on the out breath, a low throaty noise might be made and she needs to know this is ok and is helpful to get through a contraction.
  • Keep any distractions to a minimum and be the gate keeper and protector.
  • Keep your self relaxed and alert and be present throughout the labouring. Your partner may have learnt a relaxation technique during pregnancy and so its useful for you to learn it too, to use for yourself AND help her by talking through it quietly if need be during labour, between contractions

Just a word on words though. Words matter and part of relaxation is about keeping fear at bay. Minimise fear inducing stories or words she might find unhelpful.  Talk to her about this. Many birth workers/midwives/doulas are aware of the importance of choosing helpful words so it useful to be aware of this and perhaps when this is not happening, and might impact on relaxation.