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Choosing Your Labor Support

Throughout history, women in labor have been helped and comforted by other women. Those serving as "support" stayed throughout labor and provided physical comfort, emotional support, and information to the woman in labor.

While childbirth has changed a great deal from early civilization, the benefits of labor support have not. Today, labor support can be provided by a man or a woman. In addition to coaching women through labor and catering to their physical and emotional needs, today's labor support serve as the main source of communication between the woman in labor and the medical professionals during delivery.

It's very important that you talk with your choice of labor support before delivery about what you want from childbirth. Make sure to clearly express your feelings on cesareans, vacuum extractions, forceps delivery, episiotomies, other labor complications, and pain-relieving drugs. This person will then be your representative in labor when you may be too tired or in too much pain to discuss your feelings with the doctor.

Labor support can come from one of two places:

  • A labor support professional: Today's labor support professionals are called doulas (pronounced DOO-lahs). Trained in the field of childbirth, doulas understand both the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor, and recognize labor as a natural and beautiful experience. One of the benefits of choosing a doula is that, as a childbirth professional, she can effectively facilitate communication between the woman in labor, her partner, and the medical professionals, to make sure that the soon-to-be mom is getting what she wants out of the labor experience. She can explain what is happening or interpret what the hospital staff said. A doula's experience also allows her to remain calm and make rational decisions (based on your desires, of course), should any complications occur.
  • A family member or close friend: Many women in labor choose to have their partner, a family member, or a close friend serve as their labor support. While some partners find the thought of being in the delivery room somewhat disconcerting, most say that watching their child's birth was one of the most wonderful experiences of their lives. If your partner isn't what you deem "labor support material," consider asking your mother, sister, or best friend to be there with you. No one knows you better or can keep you feeling more relaxed than your immediate family. After all, that's the way it was throughout history!

Here are some valuable questions to ask your labor support candidates (and yourself!) before choosing someone to represent you on your special day.

If you're considering a doula:

  • At what points of prelabor, labor, delivery, or postpartum care will she be present?
  • How comfortable do you feel with her?
  • Does she seem to understand your labor preferences?
  • Is she okay with your partner or other family members being in the delivery room?
  • Does she discuss labor as a natural and beautiful process?
  • How many births has she attended?
  • Does she have references?
  • What types of births has she witnessed?
  • Does she have backup arrangements available?
  • Is she familiar with many methods of childbirth?
  • How much does she charge for her services?

If you're considering your partner or family member:

  • Are you comfortable with him/her seeing you naked?
  • How will he/she react if you are in a lot of pain?
  • Does he/she view labor as a natural and beautiful process?
  • Does he/she seem to have a fair understanding of what labor entails?
  • Do you see eye to eye on labor preferences?
  • Will he/she be a nurturing and relaxing presence for you?
  • Does he/she communicate well with doctors?
  • Will he/she be able to remain calm and objective if complications occur?

Since labor support is for your comfort, it's important that you choose your labor support based on your needs and desires. Don't let concerns about hurting other people's feelings influence your decision in any way. The day you welcome your new child into the world should be a day that you remember positively for the rest of your life. Choosing the right labor support is the first step in building those beautiful memories.

Sources: Maternity Center Association; Childbirth.org

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.