How to be an Awesome Birth Partner

How to be an Awesome Birth Partner

Five Ways You Can be an Awesome Birth Partner

Pssst.  Hey you, yes YOU.

The partner. The support person. The other half.

I know right now a lot of the attention is placed on the pregnant person (rightfully so!), but YOU’RE super important, too. Right now more than ever.  You’ve been running out for those late-night snacks, you’ve been there for the pregnancy milestones and now you’re wondering how to prepare for labor.

You may have just learned that no one else will be allowed to come to your birth location with you. Perhaps you were planning to have a doula present alongside your mom and mother-in-law. Maybe you had plans all along for it to be just the two of you. Either way – you may be wondering, “What can I do? How can I provide the best support?”

I’m a doula – a person trained in supporting people through labor and birth –  and I’m here to share with you some of the best tips I have for supporting a person in labor.

  • Take care of yourself

You may have read that and thought, “What?! What about the person having the baby?” But seriously, you have to take care of yourself too.  Eat, drink. Bring lots of snacks. Please. Use the bathroom. Many, many times I have had to remind partners to eat and use the bathroom during labor. Rest if she is resting, or take a break. Nurses and birth assistants will be your best friend. Let them know you need just a moment to step out in the hall. I promise you won’t miss the birth of your baby during this brief moment. PRO TIP: Pack breath mints or gum – your partner will thank you for it.

  • Offer physical support

As the birth partner, you likely you already know where the laboring person appreciates touch when needing comfort. 

Massage: The neck or lower back are good places to start. You can offer foot rubs or temple rubs too. More ideas here.

Counter pressure: Place force with your hands on the lower back or hips to alleviate pressure. YouTube can help you out beforehand with how-to videos.

Movement: Help her stay moving. SO important. Even if pain management is used, work with the care team to help her change positions in bed. Maybe she is out of bed and you’re slow dancing back and forth.

  • Offer emotional support

Perhaps your partner is getting tired/worried/stressed, or maybe she is rocking right along! Encourage her! When she says, “I can’t do this,” remind her “You ARE doing this.” 

Other ideas:

“You are so strong and capable.”

“You are safe.”

“Your body knows how to do this.”

“We are a great team. I love you.”

“We’re going to meet our baby soon.”

You will know what to say in the moment. Perhaps you have a shared inside joke. It’s okay to joke in labor – do it! At some point in labor she may not laugh at your jokes anymore. Don’t worry – it’s not because you aren’t funny anymore, it’s because things are moving along wonderfully.

  • Breathe

Easy right? Well during labor, a birthing person may feel the urge to tense up and hold their breath, and you may do the same. Encourage her to do this with you. Develop a rhythm. Slow deep breath in through your nose and deep exhale out. Encourage her to make noise while doing this if needed. You can place an affirmation here too “Nice, big, deep breath for you and baby.”

  • Hire a doula, and take childbirth classes!

If your hospital has instituted a one-support-person rule, you can still hire a doula for virtual support. “Virtual doulas” can meet with you virtually before the birth to help you plan and prepare. They can walk you through the tips I have mentioned here (and more!). They can support you with finding evidence-based information to make decisions. They can be available as an emotional outlet before, during and after labor. They can call, text, and/or be continually present through video chat during labor to support not only the birthing person but you as well.

Don’t skip the childbirth classes! You’ll both learn about the ins/outs of labor from start to finish, comfort measures, how to navigate medical interventions, breastfeeding, newborn care, and more. Good childbirth classes are designed to help you be the best support person you can be!  A lot of times, fear comes from the unknown. Childbirth education classes can fill in a lot of those unknowns for both of you. And thanks to technology and online learning and meeting platforms, you can now take many classes from the comfort of your living room.

You’ve got this.

You can and will be an AMAZING support person.

Danielle Shelton

Doula, Babymoon Inn

Danielle Shelton received her bachelor’s degree in Communications from Arizona State University. She is a wife and mother of two, and a Babymoon-Inn Certified Doula.

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Actually, Birth Never Needed to be in the Hospital

Evaluating birth choices while pregnant in the time of COVID-19.

Take a deep breath.

If you read that headline and bristled, let me clarify this before I even begin:  For people who are high-risk, ill, or who personally feel safest in a hospital setting, then the hospital IS the absolute best place to have your baby. 

But for healthy, low-risk people, I’ll say again: 

Birth doesn’t – and never did – need to be in the hospital.

Thanks to COVID-19, people are rushing in droves to explore out-of-hospital options.  Some common concerns we have heard repeatedly from people planning hospital births:

  • A pregnant woman in labor at babymoon birth center leans on the edge of the tub during a contraction.Concern that they will no longer be able to bring a doula to their birth
  • Concern that they will no longer be able to bring their partner to their birth
  • Concern that their partner can be present for the birth, but not allowed in the recovery room afterward
  • Concern that if a partner is allowed in the hospital, they won’t be able to return if they leave the building for any reason
  • Concern that they will be exposed to viruses or illnesses and become sick while in the hospital
  • Concern that they will be separated from their baby if they are showing COVID-19 symptoms or test positive
  • Concern that they will be subjected to mandatory epidural anesthesia, Cesarean surgery, or other unnecessary interventions

News outlets report on this current trend toward out-of-hospital birth as if pregnant people are trading one risk for another. 

And I get it.  I know that: 

PREGNANT IN A PANDEMIC: “I STARTED TO THINK THAT MAYBE I SHOULD JUST GIVE BIRTH IN MY BATHTUB”

is a far more compelling headline than: 

MORE PEOPLE CHOOSING BIRTH CENTERS – AN OPTIMAL AND TOTALLY SAFE PLACE TO HAVE A BABY. 

But the reality is that people aren’t trading one risk for another. There is less risk in birthing at a licensed and accredited birth center. And that’s true all the time, not just during a global pandemic. Accredited birth centers repeatedly and consistently demonstrate improved outcomes for moms and babies – outcomes that translate across race and socioeconomic status.

There is less risk in birthing at a licensed and accredited birth center. And that’s true all the time, not just during a global pandemic.

Do we like that fear is driving people to consider birth options outside of the hospital? No. It’s sad that fear has to be any kind of driving factor for pregnant people. But do we like that something, ANYTHING is driving people to consider birth options outside of the hospital? Absolutely.

In the (hopefully near) future, social distancing guidelines will be relaxed. We will return to grocery stores and birthday parties and sporting events and begin to find our new normal. And we hope that a part of that new normal is a paradigm shift in the way we view birth. We hope that new normal includes a greater appreciation for the incredible work doctors and nurses do caring for sick people in the hospital.

And we also hope that more people will begin to realize that pregnancy isn’t a sickness.

And that birth never needed to be in a hospital.

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Director of Education, Babymoon Inn

Diana Petersen received her journalism degree at the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University.  She is a DONA-certified doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator at Babymoon Inn, an accredited birth center and full-scope midwifery practice in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Even if you’ve found yourself saying any of these things while you’re preparing your birth (and postpartum!) plans, there’s a good chance that you will still benefit from having a doula support you throughout your pregnancy, birth and postpartum! Do any of these apply to you?

My partner says, “I’ve got this!”

First, let’s be clear, we can’t say this enough – A. Doula. Does. Not. Replace. Your. Partner! Your partner is amazing – we can already tell that by how involved and engaged they are. However, a doula can help support your partner or free them up to help you. Your partner knows you better than anyone, and while a doula will work to get to know you better throughout your pregnancy, they cannot provide the same level of intimacy that your partner can. Doulas know birth. They are trained in the physiological aspects of the natural birth process and can be like a handy cheat sheet of all the things you learned in your childbirth education classes. There’s no pressure to remember every phase and stage of labor on your own! It’s also important to remember that your partner is going through an emotional transition too and may benefit from doula support or even just a reminder to drink some water or use the restroom from time to time. Just like they’re looking out for your needs, a doula keeps your partner’s needs in mind as well.

“It’s not my first rodeo.”

Just like each baby is different, no two birth experiences are exactly the same. Your first birth may have left you with high expectations or a need to emotionally heal, but either way,  your first birth experience will have an impact on how you enter this one. Those are all things that you can talk through with your doula leading up to birth that will help them provide the most personalized support possible. The second time around you may also be thinking about how your oldest child can be involved in your birth experience. A sibling doula can be a dedicated support person for your first child by getting to know them ahead of time and being on-call for when you need them during labor. They can help children feel safe when mom is “roaring like a lion” or even help them to bake a birthday cake or draw a birthday card to welcome baby.

“My midwife already supports my choices, so I don’t need additional support.” 

Shout out to all of the supportive, loving and knowledgeable providers who engage in shared decision-making and honor your choices! It is SO important to have a care team that fully understands and respects your wishes.  A midwife and doula work together, but actually hold very different roles. They’re both professionals who understand the physiology of birth and work to make sure you and your baby are fully supported throughout your pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Midwives are medically trained to examine, diagnose and provide medical support and care for healthy, low-risk pregnancies. Doulas provide emotional, physical (such as touch and massage), and informational support for the birthing person and their family.

Why did you decide to hire a doula? What impact did that decision have on your birth?  Tell us in the comments.

Michelle Petkovic

Michelle Petkovic

Social Media Manager, Babymoon Inn

Michelle Petkovic received her degree in International Affairs from Sweet Briar College. She is a mother of one energetic toddler born at a birth center and loves spending time outside camping, hiking and traveling with her family.

What NOT To Do in Labor

What NOT To Do in Labor

If you’re pregnant, there’s a good chance you’ve perused books, read articles, and taken classes giving you suggestions on what to do when you’re in labor.  Move, breathe, change positions, bring a doula, stay hydrated, etc. But there are few additional things we encourage laboring people NOT do to….

DON’T waste energy.  Are you in early labor with noticeable yet manageable contractions? Relax! Take a nap or go to bed, watch Netflix while sitting on an exercise ball, eat a balanced, nourishing meal, take a casual stroll around Target, or take a warm bath or shower. Think of birth like a marathon – maybe even an uphill marathon. Conserve your energy in the beginning because you will need it at the end.   

DON’T watch the clock.  In early labor, there’s rarely a need to time your contractions.  You’ll know if they’re 30 minutes apart or 5 minutes apart – we promise. And if you’re fixating on your contractions, you’re going to feel them more intensely. Plus if you’re timing them, this means you’re not sleeping, which is a far more beneficial activity in early labor! As labor progresses into a more active state, we still discourage looking at the clock. (On more than one occasion I’ve seen a midwife quietly take a clock off the wall in a birthing room…)  Watching the clock makes you acutely aware of how much time is passing – or not passing – and you’re more likely to get caught up asking yourself “How much longer can I do this?” instead of staying mindful and present in the moment and focusing on relaxing during and between contractions. 

DON’T stress out.  Yes, this is easier said than done (which is why we recommend great childbirth classes and lots of mental preparation during pregnancy). But there’s a super-scientific reason why stress is counterproductive to labor. During labor, your body produces increasing levels of oxytocin, the amazing “love hormone” that among other things, causes contractions. Oxytocin is produced when we feel safe and loved. We WANT the body to produce oxytocin because oxytocin = labor progression. But when we’re stressed/scared/sense danger, our body produces stress hormones called catecholamines that – you guessed it – inhibit oxytocin production! So minimizing stress and external stressors isn’t just good for your mental state, it will actually help your labor progress. #science

DON’T hold your breath.  It’s tempting and may even feel instinctive to hold your breath when experiencing pain. But breathing is an important tool for labor, and one of the few tools you can use regardless of the path your birth takes (e.g. if you’re having a Cesarean, birthing balls and rebozos are no longer useful, but breathing is!).  Remember those stress hormones mentioned above? The best way to quell the stress response is by breathing. Breathing also lowers blood pressure and provides energy to both mom and baby. Because it can be instinctive to hold your breath and tense up when feeling pain, practice breathing/relaxation techniques during pregnancy that you can learn in childbirth classes, prenatal yoga, or pregnancy/birth literature.

DON’T be self-conscious.  Labor naked if you want to. Moan and roar and make all the noises you like. Make peace with that fact that you will probably throw up or poop while pushing (I promise literally no one cares, and in fact your midwife might get excited by both of these things because it means labor is advancing and you’re pushing effectively). Again, oxytocin is produced when you feel safe, comfortable, and loved. If you’re stressing out about what you’re doing, saying, or looking like, you’re getting in your own way. Don’t worry about being “lady-like” or “a good patient.” Your birth is about you and your baby. It’s your moment. Don’t worry about other people.  Embrace the experience and be the birthing goddess that you are.

DON’T forget to make a social media plan. Do what’s right for you regarding this topic, but know that if you post on social media that you are in labor, you’re opening up the flood gate of “have you had that baby yet” texts and phone calls. You may be totally fine with this. Or you may find it really frustrating/annoying/distracting/upsetting, especially if labor is going slower than you hoped or has taken a stressful or unexpected turn and you have 50 well-meaning friends and family members wanting minute-by-minute updates. In addition to thinking about if/when you post about being in labor, be thoughtful about what you post. A friend (who shall obviously remain nameless) once posted on Facebook that her water had broken and she was headed to the hospital, only to come back a few hours later and be forced to admit she had actually peed her pants and mistaken it as her water breaking.

What Do’s and Don’ts of labor do you recommend? Tell us in the comments!

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Director of Education, Babymoon Inn

Diana Petersen received her journalism degree at the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University.  She is a DONA-certified doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator at Babymoon Inn, an accredited birth center and full-scope midwifery practice in Phoenix, Arizona.

Including Siblings in the Birth Experience

Including Siblings in the Birth Experience

Are you considering including your older child or children in the birth of their sibling? While not for everyone, having your other children present at the birth can be a great experience for all of you.  Still, there are a number of factors to consider when making this decision – your child’s age and temperament, the time of day you wind up going into labor, and where you are planning to give birth, to name a few.

If you and your children have mutually decided that they will be present at the birth, consider the following to make the birth a safe, happy, and memorable experience for all.

Follow the child’s lead at the birth. One of the many benefits of birth centers is the comfortable, home-like environment.  During labor, allow your older child to call the shots on where they would like to be.  They may wander in and out of the labor room, have a snack in the kitchen, or play games in the living room.  Honor their feelings and allow them the freedom to choose where they are most comfortable, which may or may not be in the birthing room itself.

ALWAYS bring someone aside from your birth partner to be the primary caregiver during labor and birth. For a number of reasons, it’s best if you bring someone who can be completely focused on your other children.  As the laboring person, you should be relaxed and focused on labor, and your birth partner should be focused on you.  It can be a difficult balance for the non-laboring parent to care for a child (who may be experiencing some big emotions) but also be fully present and able to support the person in labor.  Additionally, if labor takes an extended amount of time or there is an emergency or hospital transfer, it may be necessary for someone to take your other children home.

Talk about birth ahead of time. In terms that are appropriate for your child’s age, explain what may happen during labor and the basics of birth (where the baby comes out, what an umbilical cord is).

  • “Mommy may not seem very happy. She may seem sad and angry, or she may be very quiet.”
  • “Mommy might make some loud noises like this (insert grunts, groans, etc.).  It may sound strange or silly, but those sounds help mommy get the baby out!”
  • “If mommy is in the bath tub, it may turn a different color like pink or red when the baby is born.”
  • “When the baby is born, it may not look very clean! He may be slippery or be covered with white stuff or have blood on him, and that’s OK!”

Consider bringing your children to the birth center ahead of time and also to an appointment with the midwife so they feel included in the process and can ask questions of the midwife

Pack a bag for your child. In addition to basics like comfortable clothes, snacks, etc., pack some activities for your child and their designated caregiver.  For younger children especially, provide some new toys or art supplies they have never seen before.

Assign roles. For older children who have chosen to be present at the birth, talk ahead of time about what their role may be at the birth.  Do they wish to be in another room but present for the actual birth? Or the opposite? Some older children will happily and instinctively jump into a doula role, bringing you water, fanning you to keep you cool, holding your hand, and staying by your side.  If this is your child, talk ahead of time about how they can be helpful.  If this is not your child, have a conversation about what they are comfortable with and assure them whatever they decide is fine with you.

Did your older children attend your birth? What advice would you give other families? Tell us in the comments!

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Director of Education, Babymoon Inn

Diana Petersen received her journalism degree at the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University.  She is a DONA-certified doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator at Babymoon Inn, an accredited birth center and full-scope midwifery practice in Phoenix, Arizona.

Five Tips for Managing Labor Pain

Five Tips for Managing Labor Pain

When preparing for a natural birth, it’s common to be concerned about the discomforts of labor. In a country where the majority of vaginal births include epidural pain relief, and articles imploring women to “just get the epidural” are widespread, planning an unmedicated birth may seem intimidating.  But we promise it’s actually very achievable! Here are a few tips for managing a med-free labor. 

Give birth in an environment designed to support natural birth.  Labor is hard work (there’s a reason it’s called “labor!”). And yes, that hard work is accompanied by some pretty intense sensations. But having complete and total control over how you respond to those sensations is a game-changer. Provided you are healthy and low-risk, your place of birth and your birth team should provide total autonomy for you to eat, drink, move, and vocalize in whatever way feels best to you.  Consider seeing midwives and giving birth at a freestanding birth center or at home.

Pack some comfort tools in your labor bag.  Consider bringing a tennis ball, massage tools, rebozo, lip balm, reheatable rice sock, ice pack, wireless speaker, and essential oils to your birth.  Practice using these things and have your birth partner brush up on his or her massage skills. Choose a birth location with unrestricted access to a shower and bathtub so you can take full advantage of the benefits of hydrotherapy.  What brings you comfort and helps you relieve stress in your daily life? Apply these same philosophies to labor.

Take a class.  Unfortunately physiologic birth is no longer the norm and therefore pregnant women don’t always have the benefit of generations of women before them and a circle of women around them sharing stories of normal birth. Soooo much of what is shared about birth is fear-based. Taking independent (i.e. offered outside of a hospital), comprehensive childbirth classes will not only teach you strategies to manage pain but also help you reframe your thinking to not see labor pain as scary or harmful. Which bring us to…

Use this acronym to shift your mindset and remove negative associations with the word “pain.”

Adjust your mindset.  Before giving birth, most people’s experiences with pain revolve around illness or injury. Generally, pain exists as a helpful and important warning sign to our brain that something is wrong. So our brains are hard-wired to overreact to pain! But the sensations of labor are purposeful and normal – a sign that things are right. They also play an important role in the oxytocin feedback cycle, causing contractions to intensify and labor to progress (which is what we want!). Practice breathing and relaxation techniques leading up to your birth and avoid the urge to tense up during contractions. Remind yourself that what you are feeling is purposeful and will result in the birth of your baby.

Hire a doula.  Every person should bring a doula to their birth, regardless of whether it’s natural or medicated, vaginal or surgical. But if you’re planning a natural birth, hiring a doula or having continuous labor support from someone other than your partner is a must.  These magical birth fairies know all the best tricks to keep the laboring person and their partner as calm and comfortable as possible. A doula knows exactly where to apply counterpressure to relieve that back labor, how to breathe with you to release tension, and exactly what to say if you’re feeling overwhelmed by labor. And if your plans for birth need to change, a doula can help you navigate any unexpected turns your labor might take.

We asked experienced mamas what helped them manage labor sensations – here’s what they had to say:

Instead of anticipating the next contraction, anticipating the break in between contractions helped me get through. The break is coming, my rest is coming.  – Aja R.

I knew the contractions were doing the hard work to open my cervix, so every time I had one, I literally visualized my cervix opening as a result and did my best to relax and think “open…open…open” until it was over. Not fighting those contractions, but instead working WITH them was key. – Tamara K.

Trusting that my body was in complete control of the labor and delivery process made it all bearable in the coolest way possible, but reminding myself that my mom, who is my biggest role model in life, and all my other female ancestors have done it too made me feel like a warrior. I can’t leave out my loving husband who was my rock during it all. – Michelle H.

With my third birth, I thought a lot about how the contraction was my body’s doing. It helped me view it less as pain…something we naturally fear. It is so different than pain being inflicted or felt in a negative way. There was nothing to fear because it was my body’s natural response. I remember saying in my head that “my body (the contractions) are powerful and I am strong.”  – Michelle R.

The phrase “fudgy monkey balls” got me through all those heinous contractions, as did being on all fours in a hot shower, counting backward from 100, and sitting backwards on the toilet. I wish I could explain the fudgy monkey balls….but it literally just came out of my mouth and it was the only thing I could say!  – Emily B.

It really helped me through being able to change positions. The most helpful thing for contraction pain was being able to sit on a yoga ball in the shower and using the rabozo(sp?) to apply counter pressure on my hips. That helped tremendously! – Megan E.

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Director of Education, Babymoon Inn

Diana Petersen received her journalism degree at the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University.  She is a DONA-certified doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator at Babymoon Inn, an accredited birth center and full-scope midwifery practice in Phoenix, Arizona.

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