Hypnobirthing: what about your birth partner?

birth preparation birthpartner hypnobirthing partner Apr 08, 2024
Sophie Fletcher Hypnotherapy
Hypnobirthing: what about your birth partner?

Most of hypnobirthing is focused on the mother, because let's face it, she's doing most of the work, but the partner's role is also important. They may be your life partner, or they could be your mother, sister, friend.

When I started teaching mindful hypnobirthing with Mia Scotland, we set it up as a one-day class and brought the price down to £99. We did this because I felt that the length of time of many classes and a three-digit price were obstacles to sceptical partners.

While mothers were reading about hypnobirthing and discussing the topic with friends in online forums, partners were much less informed.

Why it's important to equip your birth partner with tools

Partners have their own fears and worries, but they are different. It's less about the physical nature of what your body is doing or going to be doing and more about how do we get to the hospital on time? Or how do I keep my partner and my baby safe?  One of the biggest fears I've heard, is "I'm scared of seeing my partner in pain and not being able to do anything".

I've always felt that the partner's role is incredibly important. In fact, the hypnobirthing class that I teach is the very first class to include a section just for partners, that I know of. I even wrote a chapter for partners in my book so that mothers-to-be could say, ‘I just want you to read this chapter’, and if they read that chapter, it would be like planting an acorn and they would start to understand why hypnobirthing was so important.

When I teach hypnobirthing, partners are often quiet at the start. Some will sit, stony-faced with their arms folded. Once we start to demystify hypnosis, talk about how they can be advocates for their partners and help create a supportive birth environment, things start to shift in the room. When we take a break, the partners start chatting and talking about their fears and their worries.

The evidence that shows a knowledgable birth partner increases confidence

Evidence shows that when women are confident that their partner knows how to support them in the way they want, her fear goes down and her confidence around birth goes up. This is important as we know that reducing fear can help reduce interventions and improve birth outcomes.

One of the biggest fears that partners have is seeing their partner in pain and not being able to do anything about it. It is important for them to appreciate that all forms of physical expression do not mean that their partner is in pain.

What does a hypnobirthing class teach a partner?

Classes really teach a birth partner to recognise what their own anxieties and fears are, and why they may be triggering a need to fix a situation. Partners learn to recognise patterns of thinking that can be unhelpful. Questions like, ‘Do they want gas and air or an epidural’, can actually mean they are really uncomfortable with seeing their partner in labour based on their assumptions about what the woman is experiencing. Partners should create a space where mothers express their emotions without feeling judged.

I always asked women to think about saying to their partners, ‘If I need pain relief, then I will ask for it.’ and to make that very clear. 

The tools that a partner will learn in a class will help them to manage those feelings as they arise, recognising that it's their anxiety which may change the direction of a birth.

This might seem like quite an intense thing to say, but there is evidence that shows that often women end up in hospital far too early because their partners or family will say, ‘I think it’s time you went in. They often make this call because they feel uncomfortable with that sense of responsibility they may feel at home. But, going into hospital too early may increase the risk of interventions such as induction.

Can birth partners benefit from hypnobirthing tools?

Partners can also benefit from using some hypnobirthing tools and techniques themselves. The spotlight of calm for example, is a very simple mindfulness technique which helps keeps partners focused and present.

Partners can be the most amazing advocates during birth, but it's important that they advocate for the mother and that they don't advocate based on their anxieties and fears.

Having a set of questions that the mother and the partner can ask to explore options is a very important feature of hypnobirthing classes. I use the BRAIN framework for asking questions:

  • What are the Benefits,
  • What are the Risks?
  • What's the Alternative?
  • What's the Indication for that? Or what's your Intuition telling you?
  • What would happen if we did Nothing?

This framework enables you to make considered choices. Getting partners to familiarise themselves and feel confident with it is incredibly important as it supports partners to advocate confidently.

One of the most frequent comebacks I get from partners to the BRAIN framework is, ‘I'm not a medical expert. I'll just leave it to the doctors.’ But the truth is asking the right questions encourages a medical practitioner to review their own approach and often offer alternatives that are equally safe, which may be a better fit with your birth plan. Moreover, there is evidence which shows that in a healthcare setting, questioning your options may lead to better outcomes.

There is a right, and a wrong time, to be a doer

Finally, I don't like to generalise, but often partners are doers. Finding useful things to keep them occupied is important. Partners can, for example, look after the birthing environment. This may simply be, turning down lights, putting music on and organising a playlist, and being more assertive about keeping the space as free of interruption as possible.

Other things partners can do are to get the hypnobirthing audio track playlist together, so they know what's on it. Packing your birth bag together can be really helpful. Often, when attending births, I hear a birth partner say, ‘Where's this?’, or ‘Where did you put that?’ And when a woman is trying to get into their birthing zone it can get really irritating.

Think of all the practical things that they can set up for you. They can learn how to use some of the hypnobirthing tools like the rapid relaxation and the deepener, and work with you on creating encouraging positive affirmations that fit with your values. They can also learn some massage techniques too.

It's actually quite hard to sit still for the duration of a birth. It can get a bit boring. There can be long stretches where it seems like nothing's happening. I always say, have something that you can sit and do quietly that isn't a phone. As playing games or doom scrolling on your phone while your partner is giving birth is not a good look. So, consider packing a book or crosswords to keep you occupied.

Another thing couples should discuss is how partners sometimes need to leave the room or get a nap. It is common for partners to feel like they can’t leave the room or sleep. Partners need to look after themselves so that they can provide support when needed. As a Doula, I have been known to shove a sandwich in anxious partner's face and tell them to go somewhere quiet to rest.

Thank you for reading this blog post. If you found it insightful, don't forget to sign up to my email newsletter for access to free audio tracks, hypnotherapy resources and special offers. 

If you have any questions about hypnobirthing register for my free hypnobirthing session on 28th May 7pm (UTC) or listen to Hypnobirthing: Twenty questions wherever you get your podcasts.

You can follow me on YouTube and Instagram @MindfulHypnobirthingBook for more content.

If you are interested in the audio tracks check them out here

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