Updated: May 29
Just as everyone’s baby is different, every woman’s labour is different, and every woman has different needs from her support partner at different stages of her labour and recovery. Between us, we have had 7 very different births and 7 very different recovery periods. We are fortunate to have wonderful partners who helped us to deliver our babies and recover from birth. Here are our (and theirs!) top tips for being a supportive birthing partner through labour and beyond.
How to be a supportive birth partner
Supporting your partner before labour
Learn the best way to the hospital in different traffic conditions
Make sure there is petrol in the car, a few towels and rubbish bags (to protect your car seats if your partner’s waters have broken)
Talk to your partner about the type of labour they would like, and remind them that on the day, they may need to deviate from their preferences and follow the advice of their medical practitioners
In your partner’s hospital bag, make sure you have snacks (for you!), a change of clothes and closed-toe shoes
Be reassuring and interested. The last few weeks can feel very long and your partner may be uncomfortable. Help however you can and encourage her to rest
Have a plan for when your partner goes into labour. With a few weeks to go, you’ll be sitting on your phone, which may make concentrating at work difficult. When you are apart, arrange for her to text you when she thinks things may be starting to happen so you don’t see missed calls and panic every time.
How to support your partner during labour
As a birthing partner, it is important to be flexible; the birth may be quick or long. When you go into the hospital, be prepared to stay or be sent home and then come back again. You may be in the birthing suite for a few hours or days. The chair will be uncomfortable, but whatever you do, don’t complain!
With each contraction, you are closer to meeting your baby. Tell your partner they are doing an unbelievable job
Acknowledge that it’s hard, and together you will get through this
Rub her back if she wants. Be prepared for her to want you to rub her back one minute and not the next
Let her hold one finger. A hand squashed hurts!
Wear shoes; birth can be messy (ask Christy’s hubby, who wore thongs)
If you don’t want to watch the baby come out or cut the cord, that is OK. Stay close to your partner’s head.
How to support your partner after birth
Take a photo of your partner with the baby. Get one of you as a family in the first few days
Bring your partner the food they haven’t been able to eat during pregnancy, or ask visitors to bring some food with them.
Tell your partner she is amazing no matter how your baby is born. She just created and birthed your child. There is no easy birth. Each comes with its own challenges.
Try and get time off work after the baby arrives. Your partner will really need your support as babies don’t know the difference between night and day, and two sets of hands make the transition so much easier. Your baby will become much more alert from about 12 weeks - this is also a great time to have some time off if possible.
Tell your partner how beautiful they are. Even if they have a milk-stained shirt, no makeup and hair, and are a mess - tell her seeing her as a mother is the most beautiful you have ever seen her.
Be the bad guy. If your partner is tired, tell visitors they can’t come, even if it is family. Put your partner’s needs first.
If your partner doesn’t want lots of physical contacts, try to understand that her body is different and changing every day, she is tired and has a baby on her 24/7
Go easy on what doesn’t really need to be done. Enjoy newborn cuddles and support your partner, however you can. The house stuff can wait. Accept all offers of food and help. Looking after a baby is a 24/7 job, especially in the early days (it does get easier)
Help settle the baby after feeds so mama can sleep. It takes time to recover from birth, and feeding is exhausting.
Prepare to feel overwhelmed. The responsibility is huge, and mourning your old freedom is OK.
Prepare to feel more love than possible; you will grow a new heart.
Written by Christy Hopwood & Freya Owen are the Cofounders of Parents You've Got This and have seven children between them. For more helpful tips and an insight into what birth looks like, join our virtual or in-person Birth Masterclass.