By Liz Moorhead
Preparing for labor is exciting, but as your due date nears, it can also be stressful. It’s reassuring to remember: you’re not in this alone. Whether you choose to hire a doula or rely on your support person, there are many ways a birth partner can offer encouragement, comfort and care.
1. Provide physical comfort.
Perhaps the most tangible means of support is help in staying comfortable. A birth partner can help you manage your pain by keeping you mobile during early labor, coaching you through breathing techniques, helping you change positions as needed, and giving supportive touch through massage and acupressure. It’s important to note that every birth experience is different, and throughout the stages of labor touch may provide pain relief, or it may not. A great support person will be aware and respond to your cues as labor progresses. A cool cloth on your head, a comforting blanket or pillow, or ice chips and sips of water can offer some relief.
2. Provide emotional comfort.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by what is happening in your body. A great birth partner will help keep you focused, encouraged, and at times, distracted. Discussing the baby to come, providing positive feedback when things seem difficult, or putting on a planned birthing playlist can help you stay grounded in the excitement of birth.
3. Manage the logistics.
While you’re focused on the actual process of labor, it’s great to have a support person on hand who knows the birthing preference and can make sure it’s being followed where possible. Your birth partner can time contractions for you in early labor, serve as contact with providers, send messages to your family, and relay your requests as needed, both during labor and postpartum recovery.
4. Advocate for you.
A support person who knows your birth preferences can help communicate them and reinforce them when you’re unable or feeling unsure. Advocating for you may involve anything from ensuring that your preferences regarding pain management are followed in the delivery room, to preventing unwanted guests from inviting themselves for a visit.
5. Share in the experience.
You’ll be very busy during labor, but you won’t be doing it alone. A birth partner will be in the process with you, witnessing little details about the birth experience that you may have otherwise missed. A support person might snap photos, jot notes, and gather mementos in a baby book to remember and cherish.
The physical comfort, emotional support, logistics management and advocacy provided by a support person can make a huge impact on your experience. But the real benefit of a support person is just the simple act of having someone else there, partnering in this birthing adventure with you. The ability to share this process with someone you trust is invaluable.
Looking for more labor and birth resources? Check out our Childbirth 101: From Labor through Postpartum course to learn more about how your partner can support you during labor and postpartum.
About our Expert
Ashley Derderian Sousa is a board-certified lactation consultant and registered nurse with nearly ten years of experience in labor, delivery, and postpartum units. Through approachable methods and open and honest philosophy, she believes each journey to becoming a parent is a personal one that should be met with self-compassion. She is currently completing a Masters of Health Education.
About the Author
Liz Moorhead is a writer whose work has been featured in Jezebel, Refinery29, and the Washington Post. She lives just outside of Philly with her husband, two kittens, and four mud-covered sons.