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November 2019
In this issue: Four things a support person can do for a smoother birth experience
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Four things a support person can do for a smoother birth experience

This issue of our e-newsletter is dedicated to the ‘chosen ones’--those who are chosen to be the support person for labour and birth. The same ones who may be thinking, “I don’t know if I’ve got this”. 

No panicking necessary—we know you’ve got this!  YOU were CHOSEN because you are important to the person who will be giving birth. Maybe you are an important part of her birth story because you bring her a great sense of calm, or you have a way of not letting her take herself too seriously...or simply because you love each other! She sees some ‘it factor’ in you, and that’s what matters. It’s the only qualification you need.   

We know it can be scary to be the ‘chosen one’. It’s hard to watch someone you care about go through something painful. And it can be even harder because the births we typically see on TV and in the movies are scary, full of risk, and often downright traumatic to watch! It’s no wonder that fear about labour and birth takes up so much space in our minds—and we bring that into the labour room too.

The reality is that life-saving medical interventions are the exception rather than the rule in most births. Although it’s impossible to know what your birth experience will be like, there are things a support person can do to be, well,  supportive, no matter how labour unfolds. Here are four things that will help you when the time comes! 

1. Understand that emotions affect hormones, and hormones affect birth.

This is not talked about often enough. Basically, if a person in labour feels loved, supported, and protected, their labour progresses better. Being bathed in fear, and feeling judged or watched, can slow labour and make it more painful. So what can the support person do? Simple: love, support, and protect! For more information about the role of hormones and how you can make them work for you, check out our e-newsletter “Is there such thing as a normal birth?”.

2. Learn about comfort measures to help lessen labour pain. 

Building up your comfort measures toolkit will help you be more prepared for the BIG DAY. Many of these tools work best when they are practised with your pregnant person before labour begins...and will come in handy even if a C-section is necessary. To learn more about comfort measures:     

3. Know what birth without medical interventions looks like.  

In our everyday life, society tells us it’s best if we look like we’re in control—and birth often doesn’t fit that typical picture of what we think being in control should look like. There can be moaning, groaning, sighing, intense facial expressions, swaying, rocking, panting—and maybe even periods of doubt or a harsh word or two. These are all completely normal, but when a person in labour acts and looks like this, it can leave their support person feeling uncomfortable, worried, and maybe even a little helpless. Knowing what to expect can help you be more prepared in the moment. 
  • Check out this (not too graphic) birth video that shows a birth with no medical interventions. It is intense, no doubt! But keep in mind that it has been edited to keep it short. If the whole birth was shown, you would see periods of rest and relaxation between contractions which would make it feel more manageable—but boring to watch for long!     
  • Seeing her chant, moan, breathe or move in a rhythm during contractions can leave your nerves feeling a little fried—unless you know it’s a sign she is coping well!  Learn more about rhythm, ritual, and relaxation from the expert doula, Penny Simkin.   
  • But what if a C-section is in her future? Some people think the ‘Gentle C-section’ feels more like a birth than an operation. This might be important to your mama-to-be and worth talking about with her healthcare provider.

4. Talk about the kind of birth she wants.

Understanding her preferences will help you support her the way she wants to be supported.
  • Get the conversation started by reading Lamaze’s healthy birth practices together. 
  • Support her to make informed decisions. People often make decisions about birth interventions without knowing all of the risks, benefits and alternatives. Understanding the cascade of interventions is a good place to start. 
  • Ask if she has a birth preferences plan (or a birth preferences plan for a C-section) the two of you can talk about—or sit down to plan it out together. Remember, you can be involved in the discussion, but she has the final say. Also, encourage her to discuss her birth preferences with her healthcare provider long before her first labour contraction.  
  • She may also need you to be her voice if something unexpected comes up during labour—she could have trouble collecting her thoughts. Not only is it okay to ask her healthcare provider questions, but that is the key to getting the information she will need to make an informed decision in the moment. 
 We know you aren’t going to have the lead role in this birth story—after all, you aren’t the one giving birth. But you are going to have a very important supporting role that will help shape how the story plays out. Research tells us that women feel most satisfied with their birth experience when they are supported, respected, and valued. You can make that happen. We just know it!

Important Update: It’s not too late to get your flu shot! 

Canada’s flu season generally runs from October to April each year. Pregnant women are considered high-risk and we recommend getting the flu shot as early in the season as possible. The flu vaccine is safe to get at any stage of pregnancy.  Public Health is holding drop-in flu clinics in November. You can also book an appointment with your healthcare provider or drop into a local pharmacy to get your flu shot. Check out last month’s issue of Let’s Talk Pregnancy to learn more about pregnancy and the flu. 

Your child's developmental milestones:

Want more stage and age-specific information? Visit our website to read about your child's development and get more activities and healthy living tips:
1st trimester | 2nd trimester | 3rd trimester | 4th trimester 

Learn more:

  • Want to learn more about pregnancy? Public Health has a FREE Online Prenatal Program.
  • Planning to give birth at the Guelph General Hospital Family Birthing Unit? Sign up for their tour and information session offered the third Wednesday evening of each month. 
  • Enjoying this monthly e-newsletter? Subscribe to Public Health's Let's Talk Parenting e-Newsletter to get reliable, local parenting information directly to your inbox.
  • Not sure how you will pay for dental care for your children? Public Health has free dental clinics for kids ages 0 to 17.
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