Congratulations on being asked to support a woman in labor. It is an exciting, and important task. But we understand it can also be a little intimidating, especially if you feel pressure to help the woman give birth naturally.
If you are preparing to assist a woman in labor, this section is designed specifically for you. You will find answers to the most common questions. You will also find information to help you provide the best support possible. But before moving onto that information, take a few minutes to define the role of the labor partner.
Defining the Labor Partner Role
There is no one standard role a labor partner must play in a natural birth. There are many things you can do as a labor partner, but which of those will be appropriate will depend on the desires and wishes of the woman who invited you to attend the birth. Read through these questions with the woman to ensure you both understand what expectations she may have. Share with her any concerns you may have about your ability to provide the types of support she needs. Together, you will define your labor support role.
A labor partner may be asked to provide comfort measures, suggest positions and techniques, maintain a comfortable environment. How involved does the mother desire you to be in maintaining her physical comfort? Does she want you to provide comfort measures when she asks for them? Does she want you to suggest comfort measures to her? Does she need you to practice comfort measures with her before labor begins?
A labor partner should always use encouraging words during labor. How much encouragement does the mother anticipate needing from you? What types of phrases does she anticipate being the most helpful? Are there family issues which might cause stress during labor, such as child care or disagreements with close relatives? Does the woman desire you to help her manage stressful issues that arise?
Labor requires advanced planning, especially if this is not the mother’s first child. Much as a Maid of Honor would assist her in preparing for her wedding day, labor support can help her prepare for giving birth. The “background” jobs are not glamorous, but are important for her to feel calm and confident as she begins labor. Does the woman need help preparing a space in the home for birth or for the new baby? Does she need assistance ensuring food and snacks are available for labor and through the first week after birth? Will she want you to ensure all the “bags” are properly packed and arrive at the birth place? Does she need you to provide a ride to a birth place, or a ride home? Does she need you to help provide care for older children during labor?
Information and decision Support
Some labor supporters may be asked to help the woman process information given and make decisions. How does the mother want you to participate in decision-making? Should you quietly wait for decisions to be made, or offer suggestions during the decision-making process. Does she want you to remind her of questions she would like to ask, or of items on her birth plan? Does she want help gathering information about options and writing a birth plan? How does the woman want you to participate in unexpected situations, such as premature labor or an emergency cesarean? How does she want you to respond if she begins to desire changing her plan from natural birth to using a medication?
Other Supportive Roles
There are many other jobs labor support may provide. Does the woman want you to take photos or video of her labor? Does she want you to be a point of contact for interested friends and family so she will not have to answer a phone? Does she need someone to just enjoy the day with her during early labor, keeping her mind off the slowly building contractions? Would she like someone to bring a treat for the birth center or hospital staff to thank them for their assistance?