It has been shown that support in labour is important in reducing stress hormones and anxiety. Stress hormones make contraction less efficient. This is why it’s important to reduce stress as much as possible. If both you and the people supporting you understand the birth process, understand your birth preferences and also understand why plans may need to change during labour, then you will be in the best frame of mind for this important time.
Most women will want to be supported by their partner in labour and your partner is excited to meet the baby too. You may want support from a friend or family member as an alternative. Another option is to have a doula to support you. A doula is experienced in supporting women in labour but usually isn’t a trained midwife.
Support During Labour
Labour can be long and may be painful if you prefer not to have an epidural. Having one to one support during labour is very important. It can help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels can reduce the effectiveness of contractions so keeping stress levels low can help labour to progress. Your support in labour from your partner, family or doula should be focussed on reassuring you. Helping you move into whichever position is comfortable and making sure you are staying hydrated. It may help if they rub your lower back, hold your hand during contractions and provide cold compresses for your forehead.
They need to know that labour can take a long time so they need to be prepared with drinks and snacks to keep them going. You can drink in labour. But it’s wise to keep eating to a minimum as labour can slow stomach emptying and you may feel sick if you eat.
Your supporter is also your advocate. They can help with any discussions with the midwife and obstetrician about your preferences. But they also need to recognise your choices may change in labour. Some people don’t want to have an epidural but then find as labour goes on, that they are struggling with pain and decide they do want to try it. Your supporter needs to understand your right to change your mind. They also need to be aware that they may be told where to stand in the room. This is usually by your shoulder in order to give the medical team enough space to work.
Support During Caesarean Birth
It is usually possible to have one person in theatre with you during a caesarean section. They will be sitting beside you at your shoulder but won’t be able to move freely around the theatre. This is because of the number of clinical staff and the need to keep equipment sterile. This is usually the woman’s partner. But you are free to ask for whoever you feel most comfortable to be with during the procedure.
Theatre can be quiet a daunting place and from time to time partners can feel faint or dizzy being in theatre. If that happens, we suggest they sit or lie on the floor. They must not attempt to try to leave theatre as they could fall and hurt themselves.
Fathers usually leave theatre with the Paediatrician and the baby to give the baby a cuddle and skin to skin while your operation is being finished.
If you are having a general anaesthetic in which you are put fully to sleep, your partner won’t be able to be in theatre with you. This is to allow the clinical team to concentrate fully on caring for you and your baby.