Women who are going to give birth start mentally preparing before their partners do. As parents-to-be, this head start may mean you feel a little out of step with each other, which is perfectly normal. It’s a good idea to register early for an antenatal class since this will give you time to plan something that’s just about the two of you in your busy schedules. It’s a great opportunity to make sure you’re in sync in terms of your thoughts and what you know about pregnancy and giving birth.
Births usually go best when you work as a close-knit team and know each other’s needs. That said, no two births are alike, so you need to prepare—whether you’re having your first, second or third child.
Start with your relationship
Can you talk with each other about important things? Trust is key in a good relationship. If you feel that there are things you still need to work on in your relationship, now might be a good time to start.
Visualize your future
Visualize what you want to happen in the lead-up to the birth and talk with each other about what you envision. For example, you might want to visualize “my newborn lying on my chest” or “getting home and walking through the doorway with my baby in my arms”. Use these visualizations during labor and remind each other of them when you’re low on energy or feel that you don’t have the strength to go on.
Stay at home for as long as possible
Labor often starts with contractions. This first phase is called the latent phase or early labor. Try to stay at home for as long as possible during this stage. Don’t work yourself up by running around looking for things to take with you to the hospital. Instead, have your hospital bag packed well in advance to avoid last-minute stress.
The hormone oxytocin, which is released in the mother’s body when the she feels secure and relaxed, stimulates contractions. Oxytocin is sensitive to stress and disturbances, so light a candle, stay calm, try to relax and make sure you rest as much as possible between contractions.
Time to go to the hospital or birth center
When the contractions get closer together and become longer and more intense, it’s time to go to the hospital or birth center. This second phase is called active labor and is usually an intensive and demanding part of childbirth. Now you’ll need the tools that you practiced during pregnancy to help you manage the pain, your breathing and your relaxation.
Get extra energy
Toward the end of active labor, it’s normal to feel quite exhausted, and you both may need an energy boost to cope. Remember to pack a light snack, water or a sports drink for this stage. You may feel your energy return during the final phase of childbirth, which is called transitional labor, and ends with your baby being born.
A supportive partner
The loving support of a partner during labor is priceless. You are important! Remember that—even if you feel afraid, unsure and don’t know how to help. Just being there and responding to your partner goes a long way—both during pregnancy and labor. Ask your partner what she needs and how you can support her.
Be conscious of your needs
To be able to support your partner in the best possible way you need to be conscious of your own needs. For example, if you are afraid of seeing your partner in pain, or you have a phobia of blood or hospitals, it’s a good idea to think about how you are going to manage that. A well-prepared, well-rested partner who’s had enough to eat provides the best support during labor.
Learn about labor
Although you don’t have any medical responsibility as a partner, it’s still a good idea to learn about the actual birth process. Reading about the different phases of childbirth, how labor starts, pain-management techniques and pain relief can help you to feel confident, which will also instill a feeling of confidence in your partner.
Give massages and stay close
You can help your partner during labor by giving her a massage. Your touch may help her body to release oxytocin. Keep your massages soft and rhythmical. Slow, gentle, firm movements are often best, both during and between contractions.
You can help during labor by being close, wiping her forehead with a damp towel between contractions and reminding her that your baby will soon be here.