‘Your birth partner’s job is crucial,’ says Sheena Byrom OBE, a midwife consultant, leader of the Midwifery Unit Network and author of Catching Babies.
‘It’s important that they know what’s important to you, and how best to support you, way before you go into labour.’
Writing a birth plan for your birth partner will kick-start conversations about how you’re going to work together through labour. It’ll give you time to try out some different techniques, and find out what you like – and more importantly, what you don’t like – way before those contractions start.
Think of this birth plan as a set of instructions to be used alongside your medical plan, outlining what your partner should do to support you during labour and birth.
‘Discuss it at length together,’ says Sheena, ‘since the methods you use will be completely personal. You might want to play certain music, set the lights at a particular level, or try massage or relaxation techniques.’
What will your partner do while you’re in labour?
Note down specific duties for your partner too, such as timing your contractions and monitoring how fast they are coming, so that you can assess whether you need to be heading to hospital or calling your midwife.
It should also be their responsibility to make sure you’re eating and drinking healthily. Include plans for transporting you to hospital, and a checklist of things to pack into the car and your hospital bag, and even the hospital’s postcode.
If you have older children, then you’ll need to plan childcare too. You might want them to be present during some part of your labour, or you might not: make the necessary arrangements and make it your partner’s responsibility to ensure that happens on the day.
Once you are in established labour and your midwife is present, your birth partner will act as your advocate, representing your wishes to the medical team.
‘One of their key duties is to build a relationship with your carer,’ says Sheena, ‘and to make sure the lines of communication are as open as possible.’
That means they need to be able to represent you clearly and powerfully, but not forcefully or obstructively. So, think both about the dynamic between the two of you, and the way they communicate with others.
‘Your birth partner’s job is to be led by you, to be a constant support, but to melt into the background, so that your needs are at the forefront,’ explains Sheena.
‘Note down specific duties to perform during established labour,’ advises Sheena, ‘like giving you a sip of water at agreed intervals, adopting support positions during contractions or coaching you with your breathing, and anticipating what you might want next.’
That way, with your partner fully briefed on what their role is, you won’t have to be forever giving instructions about what you need them to do next.