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Birth Partners: Things to Avoid in the Delivery Room

Listen to the Podcast here.

Hello everyone, this is Liz Harvey coming to you from our razorcast™ studios in New York City where we are dedicated to bringing you cutting edge interviews from many of the leading industry professionals across the United States.

In today’s episode, we are speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler. Stephanie is a German educated midwife, a U.S. educated doula, an acupuncturist and she is a certified lactation counselor (CLC). She is known as The New York Doula.

Stephanie has delivered over 1200 babies and has experience with twins, triplets, breech babies and water births. She also works with newborn parents in their postpartum stage and holds classes and seminars for moms and dads to be.

With a wealth of experience and knowledge in her field, Stephanie Heintzeler is widely considered to be one of the top doulas in the country. She is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.

Today we are going to talk about a very important topic: Birth Partners: Things to Avoid in the Delivery Room

RC: Hi, Stephanie. How are you today?

Stephanie Heintzeler: I’m good, how are you?


RC: I’m good, thank you. Thanks for joining us.


Stephanie Heintzeler: Thanks for having me.


Question 1: What is the primary role of the birth partner in the delivery room?


RC: What is the primary role of the birth partner in the delivery room?


Stephanie Heintzeler: The primary role of the partner is to relax the mother. Everyone thinks you need to be on her all the time or do all these things but in the end, the main job is to relax the mother, shield her, keep her safe, ask questions, ask questions to her, making sure that she’s comfortable, if there’s anything that she needs but at the same time, ask questions to the birth team so that she’s more comfortable. Maybe the parents know what the next steps are, what to expect, coach her mainly, breathe with her, really be with her. Make sure that she is in a situation where she feels safe. Because if she feels safe, she will let go and if she’ll let go, then labor will progress.



Question 2: Do all hospitals allow birth partners in the delivery room?


RC: Great. Okay so do all hospitals allow birth partners in the delivery room or during a
c-section delivery?


Stephanie Heintzeler: Yeah. In New York, all the hospitals allow two people. Most have a doula and a partner in the room. That’s a good thing because first of all, you don’t want to have the whole family in there. I’ve been to other births where we had ten people in the room and that’s too much. We have the saying that the baby should come in the way it came out; the baby come out the way it came in, I’m sorry.


RC: That makes more sense.


Stephanie Heintzeler: That makes more sense, that’s right. That doesn’t even happen in a hospital because there’s so much staff but in between you really labor by yourself. You really labor with two people. You need two people to have with you in the room because when you have a normal labor, meaning you’re aiming for a vaginal birth, no matter whether it’s natural or with a medication, you really need a lot of support. Someone usually needs to use the bathroom at some point, someone needs to eat, someone maybe needs to close the eyes and rest a little bit up if it’s in the middle of the night. But, the mom still needs a lot of support. You need two people in there to have this cozy and safe feeling. But, if you have too many people in the room, then it can actually stall labor and the mother cannot focus on herself and what’s going on with her body so she doesn’t notice changes because she’s too distracted. In the end, it’s the perfect number to have two people. The c-section-


RC: Yes, go ahead.


Stephanie Heintzeler: I nearly forgot about that. The c-section, one person is allowed. In the OR, one person is allowed. If there’s a doula in place, then it’s either the doula who will go in so the dad waits outside for the baby. Usually, babies don’t stay in the OR too long because it’s freezing in there because they try to lower germs so it’s a pretty cold room. Babies don’t stay there a long time. They usually go on mom’s chest for quite a while, maybe 10 minutes, but then for the last half-hour of the c-section, baby goes outside in a warmer. Sometimes the partner waits outside and greets the baby and then sometimes, most of the time, the dad / the partner is in the OR with the mother. And if there’s a doula, then the doula will come in later to help with breastfeeding. That would be something.


I just actually had a mom this morning. I was waiting and once the baby was out, I got in the recovery room and I helped her breastfeed. That was really, really helpful. In the end, babies, they didn’t have that transition, their lungs might not be working properly and sometimes they have trouble with blood sugar, especially when they’re small. When you have skin-to-skin and really help with breastfeeding and stay on it continuously, make sure that the baby is latching on and drinking well, then you can avoid a lot of problems after birth.


Question 3: Now, what are the top things that a birth partner needs to avoid in the delivery room?


RC: Okay now what are the top things that a birth partner needs to avoid in the delivery room?


Stephanie Heintzeler: I think the top things are not using a phone. I see that so often. It’s crazy. The mom is breathing and she’s working with her contractions and the contractions over and she peeks at her partner and then he or she is typing and that’s just not great. The other thing is falling asleep without saying it. Everything that makes the mother in labor, makes her feel that the attention is not really on her – falling asleep. The problem is really that if the partner thinks, “I need some sleep now, I’ve been sitting, helping you for 12 hours.” First of all, you can see if there is another person who can help. Do you have another birth partner? Is there a doula? Is there a friend? Anyone who is on call for you?


The other thing is that if a mother is working through her contractions and the partner dozes off in between, many moms are getting pissed off and they’re not happy. It’s a different story if the partner says, “I’m so sorry, honey, is it okay? I just need to close my eyes for 20 minutes. I’ll sit over here, I’m right there.” Usually, the moms are okay. If not, then we need to figure it out. The partner needs to stay awake. It’s really a big thing. The other thing is going in and out of the room, creating a lot of arrhythmic situation because the mom needs a lot of rhythm. Many partners, we need to stay in the room and create the slow and rhythm and not a lot of changes.


Food is always an issue in the rooms. The mom has a very, very sensitive nose. I notice this, even for myself. Sometimes I bring something and I try to bring something up not too crunchy and not too smelly and not too something. In the end, when you eat, whatever you do, it does smell, so you need to be super cautious. When you do, eat it in another corner or eat it outside or announce it, “I’m going to eat this now, let me know if this is okay for you. Otherwise, I’ll leave the room.” Because moms are often nauseous in labor and they can’t handle a lot of smells, coffee even, it could be some little things like that.


Of course, if a partner is not very involved when the mother feels that the partner doesn’t step up enough. I’ve certainly seen births where the partner was there, absolutely present but the mom was like, “I can’t do this, I need help here,” and the partner just said, “You’re doing it, you’re doing great.” And the mom was just like, “How do you know?” Just this one sentence often times doesn’t help. It can really help to prepare beforehand and just know. I do that with couples in their prenatal visit. “What glues you together? What helps you in a tough situation? What situations have you gone through before?” Whether it’s an illness or a wedding alone, a wedding can be super stressful. What is it that helps as a partner? Is the partner in charge? Is it just stepping up, and he’s like, “Listen honey, this is what you wanted, we’re going to get through this, I’m right here. You’re close, very close, baby’s here soon.” Something like that helps tremendously.


The other thing is just being too serious. That’s my biggest thing. Some partners are dead serious and they’re really, “This is all so serious,” not necessarily scared because they’re not really scared all the time but they feel with their partner. Yes, you do need to feel with her but at the same time, you’re having a baby and it’s a good thing. Every contraction is a good thing. If a partner keeps things light, that’s really what makes it. I’ve laughed tears with partners and moms who in the end, yes, they didn’t like it too much but at the same time they were laughing. Because here they are, they’re miserable or they’re tired. At the same time, they’re going to have a baby and that’s a good thing. Silly jokes, very good thing, very good to do.


Question 4: What are a couple of things that you recommend that a birth partner should do?


RC: That leads to my next question which is, what are a couple of things that you recommend that a birth partner should do?


Stephanie Heintzeler: One thing is certainly be light. Don’t be too serious. Stay in touch with the team, that can really help – with the birth team, doula, obstetrician, midwife – just be aware of what is going on. Is everything okay, is everything on track. If you see them discussing, just raise your ears, just ask what’s going on. Be responsible and step up for your partner. The other thing is confidence. Being confident and helping the mother. Of course, sometimes the partners doubt, they doubt the vaginal birth, they doubt that the mom can do it without medication. If there’s doubt, there’s a doula that can help. I’ve texted back and forth sometimes with dads in labor. The mom was breathing and in this case, we did have the phone in our hands for five minutes and dad just had questions. “I’m really worried? Is this normal?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s fine. Trust me, she’s going to start pushing soon,” and that’s what happened.


Then, you just have a conversation without the mom noticing. That can really help. Massage is just tremendous help. Everything with touch, just being with the mother physically. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the whole body and hugging and the big massage. I usually use a lot of counter pressure and a lot of certain pressure points that help very good. If it’s just holding their hand, holding their head, holding the feet, massaging the feet. It usually needs to be constant. Mothers need a lot of touch and physical reassurance because everything stops. The mom stops thinking at some point, she stops asking questions, she’s just in her labor, no matter if it’s natural or with medications. She’s just a little bit out of it and that’s a good thing. If we stay on and just keep her safe physically, she’ll be able to let go and have the baby.


Question 5: Is it helpful to take a childbirth class with your birth partner? And what topics are covered?


RC: Is it helpful to take a childbirth class with your birth partner? What topics are usually covered?


Stephanie Heintzeler: I like classes. I teach them a lot. I love them. It’s so interesting how many parents … It’s a birth! There’s so much preparation when people do other things, like from a wedding to planning a vacation to buying a car. But then for the birth, they’re like, “Oh, it’s going to be fine, it’s natural.” Well it’s not, because there’s nothing natural when you go to the hospital. There’s a lot of things that a hospital does, from IV fluids and monitoring that they need to do. You want to make sure you have your birth – but with the hospital for example, of course, when you’re planning on a home birth or a birthing center birth that’s a little different. There’s still a hospital admission, there’s a triage process. Things like that are being taught and told about.


Going over a birth plan, creating a birth plan so the couple knows options, so they know, “Oh, this is what I could do. I could actually encapsulate my placenta,” or “Maybe I want to give birth on my hands and knees,” but then you need to ask your doctor if he or she is okay with that. The main things that are taught in class is the signs of labor so that the couple really knows what’s happening. How does labor start? When do we even go to the hospital? Do we have a doula, do we want a doula? Do we want more support? There’s breathing techniques, comfort techniques, positioning, really nice, mom’s love that. We go over a lot of positions with massage, so moms could stay there forever. A big thing also is interventions. There are interventions in hospitals, whether it is breaking the water artificially, whether a c-section that’s necessary or not necessary and the mom wants to wait, when do you decide that? What questions could you ask? That’s important.


There are little things like, “How can I get admitted?” Or, released from the hospital, “What do I need? I need a car seat in order to get out of the hospital. Do I want an epidural?” It is helpful. Mainly really for the partner, for the mother, too, but she’s busy. She’ll just go through labor, but the partners, they need to know. I really notice that couples who I taught -and I do follow up with them – and usually three months later they’re like, “Oh, this is what happened and this is how our birth went.” You really notice that they’re like, “Thank goodness I learned about this and I was using the breathing techniques and then we asked the certain questions.” It just makes them feel more confident and that’s all it takes. They just need confidence and then you feel good and then just know what’s going to happen. The chances that you’re going to have the birth that you want are much much higher.


RC: This has been great advice. We know you’re really busy, so I just want to thank you for all your time and help today, Stephanie.


Stephanie Heintzeler: Thank you. You’re welcome.


RC: For our listeners across the country, if you are interested in speaking with Stephanie Heintzeler, you can either go online to www.thenewyorkdoula.com, or call 917-399-2031 to schedule an appointment.


On behalf of our entire team at razorcast™, thank you for listening. We look forward to bringing you more top quality content from our country’s leading industry professionals.