As we celebrate the birth of Prince Harry and Meghan's first child - a baby boy - we can all breathe a sigh of relief after a tense wait. We imagine new dad Harry certainly felt the pressure in the run-up to the big day, as he was no doubt a birthing partner for his wife. But the Prince didn't need to worry as according to several experts, his humour, military past and other "perfect qualities" he possesses, were just what pregnant Meghan needed to birth her first child.
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We spoke to various experts; Cheshire specialist midwife Kate Green, pregnancy and yoga expert Clare Maddalena (who is also the founder of LushTums), Clare Littler (aka the Mumsy Midwife), and Sarah Robinson, who is a birth doula based in York. Each expert gave us an insight into what might have happened during the delivery room.
Sarah, who is a member of Doula UK, an organisation of close to 700 birth and postnatal doulas, spoke to HELLO! about how Harry might have coped. "Harry has a reputation for being caring and kind which are perfect qualities for a birth partner. He is also said to have a great sense of humour which will help to keep the atmosphere positive and Meghan in good spirits."
Clare, the founder of LushTums, agrees, but thinks Harry's army past might have helped, telling us: "Harry seems calm and jovial and of a nice disposition - he has also been in the army and learnt how to manage his emotions in a crisis situation, so I’m sure he stayed present and grounded and there for her during labour."
Clare Littler, who also goes by the Mumsy Midwife, told HELLO! "It’s integral to have someone calm when you’re going through a labour and birth. You need someone to ground you in the moments you feel you can’t cope. You need someone who is aware and headstrong, knowing your wishes for the labour and birth and happy to be your advocate if needs be. You also need someone who is supportive and caring - and this is something I think Harry has in leaps and bounds."
Most importantly, Harry would have had to remain calm, says the LushTums founder. "Mood is catching. A birth partner who is panicking, stressed or anxious can create a lot of adrenalin and cortisol in their body and the birthing women will pick up on this - it can stress or worry her. Once her adrenaline is up, it’s harder to relax and it means oxytocin, the hormone needed for contractions and birth will be dropped. Perhaps slowing everything down and pulling her into her own panicky thoughts."
Sarah the Doula reckons Harry could have brought even more to the room, saying: "There are many more ways that a birthing partner can offer support, including creating playlists of Meghan’s favourite songs to play during labour, offering water and energy snacks, encouraging relaxation and supporting Meghan to move in to positions that help her feel more comfortable."
Harry, like a lot of nervous husbands, might have needed to step out of the room at times - but that's a good thing. According to the LushTums boss, it's common for husbands to leave the room "to take stock, pace up and down and do some star jumps to get rid of their nervous energy". She also recommends that birthing partners should avoid caffeine and "think positive thoughts."
After Harry and Meghan were spotted shopping in an aromatherapy shop just weeks before the birth, could the pair have stocked up on popular oils for the delivery room, or did they discover massage techniques? Midwife Kate gives us an insight into what they might have bought: "Aromatherapy is a very popular alternative therapy to use antenatally and throughout labour. Oils can be used in a variety of different ways such as diffusers, baths or in carrier oils to use for massage. Massage itself is a great technique to learn as a birthing partner. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety, aids circulation which in turn can help reduce swelling and also helps soothe aches and pains. It would certainly have been a great attribute for Harry to possess.
"Clary sage is probably the most popular scent in the delivery room as it helps to induce contractions and boost oxytocin production - both essential for labour."
If there's one thing to be sure of, Prince Harry acting as a birthing partner will have made the royal couple stronger. Kate reveals: "Having a baby is an extremely intimate, special experience. Birthing partners often form a very special bond on so many levels as they experience this momentous event together. Partners often describe being in awe of their wife/partner, and women are grateful for the love and support they received. Whether the outcome is perceived to be a positive or negative birth experience, being together throughout can strengthen couples relationships and also help them to bond with their new baby."