The Birth Partner - A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions

The Birth Partner – A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin is the quintessential birthing book for labor companions.  I read mine from cover to cover before each of my kids were born.  I loved it and here’s why.  I’m the type of father that wants to be involved as much as possible.  Do I trust the hospital to deliver my baby in the best way possible?  Not quite.  I trust the hospital to 1) follow their rulebook to avoid lawsuits, 2) manage labor & delivery to be profitable first, and 3) be as efficient as possible with doctors’ and nurses’ time, and finally 4) deliver babies safely within their guidelines.  The hospital’s primary focus is (sadly) not my best interest.  They are a company with profits and losses and will be run as such.  It’s my responsibility to look out for myself and my family first anyhow.  To do that, I need to understand something that all men fear, labor.  (Sorry for the diatribe, but it ties into why I liked The Birth Partner so much.)

In the interest of self-preservation (and wife-preservation), I wanted details on the birth process.  For me, it’s comforting to demystify a situation as much as possible before confronting it (and in this case the situation is the labor and delivery room).  TBP is a reference book dense with childbirth information and gave me the details to ready myself for Steph’s childbirthing.  Note that this is not an easy reading Harlequin romance novel.  Some dads (or other partners) may get overwhelmed and toss the book on the shelf.  Others, like myself, revel in having so much information in one place…and want to sleep with it under our pillow.

I know that birth partners come in all different types.  The amount of involvement from a partner during labor differs substantially and depends upon the comfort level and relationship of the partner towards the mother-to-be.  My wife pushed two human beings out of her body for us.  The least that I could have done is be knowledgeable enough to support her as best I could.  So, I took the boy scout approach to childbirth and prepared myself for the delivery room (mostly by catching watermelons and slapping myself in the face), but also by studying up on the subject.  My philosophy was “Give me all the information so I can deliver a baby in the back seat of a car, if I have to.”  (With as fast as our second one came, a third child may very well get that opportunity.)

Now for the material.  It starts out talking about what goes on in the last few weeks of pregnancy.  The aches, pains, and signs that a birth partner should always be on the lookout for.  It includes all the basic things that you should be thinking about doing and packing before the trip to the hospital.  The crux of TBP is dedicated to the actual labor and delivery.  The signs of pre-labor, how to understand contractions, dilation, and all the stages of labor are laid out and organized well.  (I had to re-read this section a few times.  It was pretty dense.)  As well as the normal labor scenarios, this section also talks about complications of labor and what you can do as a partner, should they arise.  The third section of the book is dedicated to the possible tests and medical interventions that can take place at the hospital.  This section is important.  Personally, I had a huge issue with the hospital staff that were involved with our first baby’s birth.  They had wanted to perform quite a few (unnecessary) medical tests during my son’s birthing.  Had I not known about the medical equipment and intervention techniques used, I would not have been able to make an informed (and what I thought was safe) decision on what to do.  I felt confident in my knowledge and valuable in protecting my wife (and baby’s) health.  The final section is about the postpartum period.  It mainly discusses the first few days after delivery and breastfeeding.  It’s a short section and just gives some practical tips for coping with a new baby.

Below is a partial list of material found in The Birth Partner

Section 1 (Before the Birth) – perineal massage, tracking fetal movements, birth plan, phone list of important contacts, things to take to the hospital, baby supplies

Section 2 (Labor & Birth) – signs of labor, what to do if water breaks, prelabor signs, timing contractions, when to go to the hospital, how to act during labor, techniques to comfort the mother,

Section 3 (Medical Side) – group B strep, ultrasound, nonstress test, IV fluids, fetal monitoring, fetal scalp monitoring, fetal pulse oximetry, rupturing membranes, induction, episiotomy, vacuum extraction, foreceps delivery, complications to mother, pain medication during labor, cesarean, VBAC, postpartum aches and pains.

Section 4 (After the Birth) – baby exam, circumcision, postpartum depression, planning for the first few months, breastfeeding

In conclusion, I could go on in detail about what Simkin has compiled in TBP, but this review would be overly long.  Let me just say that this book is more geared towards those fathers, doulas, and partners that want to understand labor and want to take a very active role in supporting their laboring partner.  For those that are willing to leave every decision up to the hospital, this book would be more useful as a doorstop.  For everyone in between, this is a valuable resource to pull off the home bookshelf and answer most of the common questions a partner (as well as the future mother) would have about childbirth (in a hospital, birth center, or other).


10_worm_ratingOverall Rating:  10 Worms

Readability:  9 Worms  (A little dense for most readers.)

Usefulness:  10 Worms

Manliness:  10 Worms  (This book tells you how to deliver a baby in the car.  That’s the instant mustache kind of manly!)

Retail Price:  $16.95


Pros: Everything about this book.  It’s detailed, well-organized, thorough.  It has plenty of pictures to help you understand certain ideas and concepts.  It will prepare you for just about anything between the end of the prenatal period and beginning of postpartum.

Cons: Very doula centered.  I can see it being a bit dense for the more “let the professionals handle it” fathers.  If you are not into natural childbirth, this book may be too much.  Although, you could get some good information on how to naturally help the mother cope until she gets the epidural.

Things I would modify:  Nothing.