Decades ago, fathers to be were not allowed into the labour /and delivery rooms. All that have changed even in many Malaysian public hospitals. So much so that many of the present fathers assume that being present for the birth of his child is the new normal. However, when asked how they can be of added value to their partner, many are uncertain.
Childbirth is a natural process which follows the completion of the human gestation period of 40 to 42 weeks. The availability of advance medical sciences has made childbirth much safer for both mothers and babies. The advancement of medical provision, however, means medicalization and a certain amount of institutionalization. The presence of a birth partner is thus important; the woman can focus on the physical and mental aspect of the labour and birth, the hospital and health care providers can focus on ensuring that the process is complications free and the birth partner is the bridge between the two parties, He is the eyes , ears and mouth for his partner and provide the emotional support that his partner needs .
Preparation for your spouse /partner to be your birth partner starts before birth. Discussions about your expectations about labour), managing contractions strategies , delivery positions ,breast feeding and your expectations of your birth partner should be discussed honestly and realistically. He needs to know what to do if and when you do change your mind about your birthing wishes.
When labour starts, your birth partner needs to be :
• Sensitive to your needs. He knows you well and understand how and what your needs are when you are tired, frustrated or even a bit anxious. • Supportive by ensuring that your labour and birthing wishes are adhere to as much as possible. The prior discussions will assist him to support you aqeduately.
• Get updated by asking specific questions. Asking generalised questions will only get a general non specific answer such as “All is well or everything is alright”. These answers are of little value. Questions should be about :
• Baby : How is baby coping? If baby is coping well with the contractions, that is a good sign.
• Mother : How is mother coping? Again if her blood pressure is stable and general condition is satisfactory , that is good.
• How many cm is the cervix dilated? This allows you to know how far you have advanced in your journey. “ We are three quarters way there “ is so much more positive and meaningful than “ soon” or “just a bit longer”.
• How is the progress? This will help to pace your expectations. Even if labour is progressing very fast, if baby or mother general condition is at risk, your doctor may have to intervene. Likewise, if the progress is moderate or a bit slow, but baby and mother are coping well, then being calm and patient is the way to go.
These few questions will enable your birth partner to encourage, motivate , calm and reassure you about the labour and delivery.
Every woman has their own expectations of childbirth. Sometimes, too much information can be very confusing. This is a very intimate journey and who best to assist and share with if not the father of your child. Being a partner in the birth is no small matter. However, with little time and preparation, a strong team is born.