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Spouses, Partners, and Friends Can Offer Labor Support

Throughout human history, women gave birth at home with the assistance of their mothers, sisters, friends, and partners. And while it may not have been called "labor support" hundreds of years ago, that's certainly what it was!

Some things haven't changed over the centuries. Friends and family can still offer the physical and emotional support that can be enormously helpful in getting a woman through the difficulties of labor. Whether it's a foot massage, a cup of ice, or a kiss on the cheek, there's nobody who knows what you need -- and what might bring a smile to your face when you're feeling defeated -- more than the people who are closest to you.

Your labor support will also serve as your main source of communication with the obstetrician or midwife. There may be times when you're too tired to argue about your labor preferences, or when your brain isn't working quickly enough to understand the medical jargon being thrown at you by all the doctors. If complications arise during labor, your labor support may have to make some difficult decisions about your delivery. By having your partner, a family member, or a close friend serve as your labor support, you can be assured that you are being represented by someone who knows you well and has your best interests at heart.

There are some challenges that come with choosing a friend or family member as your labor support rather than choosing a professional.

Some people think they'll be perfectly fine in the delivery room, but end up a bit squirmy when they see a person they love in so much pain. Also, someone who isn't a professional in the childbirth field may have some difficulty understanding everything the doctors say.

But this just means that you'll have to do a bit more work in preparing your labor support (and yourself) for the big day. Here are some preparation guidelines:

  • Make sure you're comfortable with the situation. Will it be okay for him/her to see you naked or in an inelegant position? Do you trust this person to make potentially life-altering decisions for you and your baby?
  • Be sure that he or she has the right personality to serve as labor support. Some people may not have the temperament for this physically and emotionally demanding role. The lack of privacy and the impersonal atmosphere of some hospitals may inhibit others. You don't want to choose someone who may pass out at the sight of blood or panic if things don't go smoothly.
  • Get educated together. Since your labor support probably isn't a professional in the field, it's important that he learn about the basics of childbirth. It may help to get a heads-up from your obstetrician or midwife about common complications that may take place during your labor.
  • Make sure you're both on the same page. This is your opportunity to speak up! You may not have the energy to debate with a doctor in the delivery room about your labor preferences (i.e., pain medication, an episiotomy, a vacuum extraction), so now's your chance to make sure your labor support will do it for you. Tell her exactly what you want labor to be like, and make sure that she understands, accepts your opinions, and wants the same things.

Choosing a spouse, partner, family member, or friend as your labor support may involve a bit more work on your end than opting for a professional. But no good work goes unrewarded! Many people say that serving as labor support to a loved one was the most rewarding thing they ever did. And it can be rewarding for you, too. Having someone close to you during such a wonderful life experience can be a priceless memory that only reinforces the bond between the two of you.

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.