Important pregnancy decisions: Choosing the right birth partner
Even though your big sister, partner, mum and great auntie Cheryl have all asked to be present at the birth, think carefully before agreeing. “Support is one of the most important things you can have during birth,” says childbirth expert Lael Stone. “But when things start to get tricky, you want a woman by your side who has been through it before and can tell you what you’re feeling is normal.”
Here’s who can help – and who might hinder – during childbirth:
Your best friend might have been everywhere with you – from your first day of school to your gap year, but unless she’s a mum, it might be best not to ask her to be there at the birth of your baby. “Women might want their best friend there – after all, they went to high school together. But if she’s never had a baby, she won’t know what’s going on,” says Lael. “You need people present who can bring something to the birth. She adds that birth is a very emotional time and a childless friend may not know how to react to labour. “If you want a natural birth but your friend believes in drugs, she’ll tell you to take the drugs.”
While most men want to be present at the birth of their child, don’t expect your partner to have all of the answers when transition hits and it’s just you and him in the labour ward. “Women often look to their partners - but your partner is having a baby, too, and might not know how the medical system works,” says Lael, advising women (and their partners) to read books, write a birth plan and enrol in classes to empower themselves before childbirth. She adds that some partners may feel helpless and encourage you to have an epidural because they don’t know else to help with the pain, which is where a birth plan helps. “It’s an unfair expectation on men – how do they know what’s normal and what’s not?”
If you have a great relationship with your mum, asking her to be present for the birth of her grandchild could well be a mind-blowing experience for you both. However, if you’ve never recovered from the tumultuous teenage years, didn’t have a great childhood yourself, or just have a tense relationship with your mother, it might be safer not to extend the invitation. “A lot of women think they’ll bond with their mother and that it’ll be lovely – but if you haven’t bonded with your mother yet, childbirth might not be the time,” advises Lael.
Doula or midwife
Particularly for first births, hiring a trained support person, or doula, or independent midwife can help you get the birth you want, especially if you’re hoping to avoid an epidural or c-section. Lael adds that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that hiring a doula, has been shown to shorten labour by 25 per cent.
“I’m a big advocate of having a doula, private midwife or someone experienced in birth with you – if you climbed a mountain, you’d want a sherpa to show you the way. Birth is the same thing.”
- This article was written by Joanna Bounds for Kidspot, New Zealand's best family health resource.
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