Supporting at a home birth

Is home birth partner support different from hospital birth partner support?

At SupportingHer, we get asked this question frequently. And it’s an excellent question, because the birth settings are so different from one another. While it’s true that home birth offers a higher level of relaxation and familiarity, it’s also true that sometimes partners experience moments of feeling inadequate to support their loved ones.

Home birth partners use all the same comfort measures and coping techniques as hospital partners do, and they both speak the same affirmations. But there are some key differences. When someone chooses to birth at home, there are some comfort measures that aren’t available with a hospital birth. For instance, your own bed can be a major comfort during labor; there’s not the segmented mattress that you find in hospital beds. Your personal bathroom is a big plus at a home birth, and it’s easy to establish a relaxing, ambient place to labor. There is an overall feeling of just being comfortable in your own space when you choose to birth at home.

We know best evidence supports eating and drinking during labor, specifically for mom, although it’s a good idea for partners to eat and drink too! I remember attending one particular home birth for some clients having their second baby (the first baby was born in a hospital). At one point I asked the father if he wanted to grab some lunch and take a little break. He went downstairs and dished out a bowl of food from the crockpot and exclaimed, “This is way better than hospital cafeteria food!” When his wife smelled the food, she asked him to bring some to her and he said, “Oh man! I don’t even have to get anyone’s permission to feed my wife during labor!”

But there can be trade-offs when you’re the support person for a home birth. Are there other family members living or visiting in the home? If so, what’s the management plan for them? There may be other children who need attention and possibly transportation to and from a location. If toddlers and young children need supervision, please don’t assume they will occupy themselves during labor and birth. I’ve attended several home births where siblings were involved, but it requires planning and watching for cues from mom; after all, she’s doing the most work and needs the most support! It’s a good idea to have a plan in place for the day-to-day details that will feel like major distractions if left unattended.

Whether birth location choice is hospital or home, one big thing to consider is the matter of visitors. Most hospitals have visiting hours in place, but how will you manage visitors if you birth at home? We believe those initial postpartum hours are sacred, and a birth partner, it’s important to think through how you will handle family, friends and neighbors who have good intentions and want to see the new baby.

If you were to make a side-by-side comparison of a hospital birth and a home birth, you would notice that the external parameters are very different. But if you look more closely at the essence of partner support, you’ll see the similarities:encouragement, anticipation, pride and love. SupportingHer can help partners step into their role with rockstar confidence!