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The Birth Partner's Ultimate Cheat Sheet

Hey there, soon-to-be birth partner! If you're reading this, chances are you're getting ready to support your partner through one of the most exciting moments of your lives - birth. And let me tell you, you're already going to be an amazing support person by seeking out some guidance. Being there for her during early and active labour and being on the same page has some amazing research behind it for improving your birth experience and outcomes. So, let's dive into this cheat sheet together.


First things first, let's talk about what to expect during early labour.

This phase is all about getting things started and preparation. This stage is where your body is going to be making all of the hardest changes to the cervix over a longer period of time so that you have more rest in between contractions. Contractions may be irregular and mild at first, but they'll gradually become stronger and more frequent. During this stage it is really important that your partner rests as much as possible so that she can save up her energy for active labour. Your partner might feel excited, nervous, or a mix of both. Your role during this stage is to provide comfort, reassurance, and practical support.


Here are some tips for supporting her through early labour:
  • Stay Calm
    Your partner is looking to you for stability and strength. Even if you're feeling nervous inside, projecting a calm and confident demeanour can help her feel more secure.
  • Keep Her Comfortable
    Offer her plenty of fluids, snacks, and encouragement to keep her energy up. Labour is a marathon not a sprint so it is really important that she has a sip of water after each contraction to stay hydrated and has lots of little snacks throughout the day to keep her energy up. Help her find comfortable positions that use gravity but also prioritise rest – this may be sitting on a birth ball, lying on her side, lying in the bath or sitting in the shower.
  • Try not to leave her
    Try not to leave the room too often. Every time you go in and out of the room she might lose her focus and even have a little bit of fear come in, which can slow down the labour. Pay close attention to her cues and preferences. Every woman's experience of labour is unique, so listen to what she needs and adjust your support accordingly.
  • Use Comfort Measures
    Massage her back, apply heat packs as needed, and offer lots of words of encouragement. Comments like “you are so strong”, “I am so proud of you” and “thank you for doing this for us” will go along way in helping her trust her body and feel confident. Simple gestures like holding her hand or wiping her brow can also make a world of difference.


Now, let's move on to active labour.

This is where things really start to ramp up and your cervix has made a lot of changes. It is now around 4-6cm dilated (open), shorter, softer, stretcher and facing more towards the front. Contractions become more intense, lasting longer and coming closer together. During this stage most women aren’t able to talk through the contractions and may make some involuntary movement. Your partner may feel more focused and determined, but she'll also need your unwavering support and encouragement more than ever.


Here's how you can support her through active labour:
  • Stay by Her Side
    Your presence is invaluable during this intense stage. This is the time you want to help her get her natural oxytocin flowing by holding her hand, giving her lots of kisses, giving her lots of cuddles, maintaining eye contact, positive affirmations and remind her that you're there for her every step of the way.
  • Provide Physical Support
    Help her change positions often which can help to get the pelvis open at different angles and help labour progress, offer counter-pressure with the hip squeeze during contractions, and assist with breathing techniques. Your touch can be incredibly soothing and grounding.
  • Offer Encouragement
    Tell her how amazing she's doing, remind her of her strength, and cheer her on with every contraction. Your words have the power to lift her spirits and keep her motivated. It is important to try an avoid giving sympathy during this time as it may make her question herself and her body, instead giving lots of positive reinforcement is important.
  • Advocate for Her
    Be her voice when she needs it most. If she has specific preferences or concerns, communicate them to the medical team and ensure her wishes are respected.
  • Stay Flexible
    Education during pregnancy is really important, investing in an evidence based Antenatal Class can help you understand all of your options especially if complications arise. Labour can be unpredictable, so be prepared to ask questions and be open to changes. Trust your instincts and stay focused on supporting your partner through each moment. If something doesn’t seem right, or she doesn’t feel confident it is a great idea for you to ask for further clarification, risks and benefits or other available options.

And remember, it's okay to ask for help if you need it. Whether it's calling the midwife for guidance or seeking emotional support from a loved one, you don't have to go through this alone.

In conclusion, being a birth partner is no small feat, but with the right mindset and preparation, you can make a world of difference for your partner during early and active labour. Stay calm, stay present, and above all, stay supportive. You've got this!

Written by Lauren Brenton
Endorsed Midwife
Founder One Mama Midwife Pty Ltd