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Health Update: How Friends May Make Labor Easier

Although labor isn't always one of those the more, the merrier moments, it may pay to ease up on your privacy policy. In a recent study of nearly 600 women in the journal Birth, those who had a female friend or relative serve as a doula in the delivery room (usually alongside, not instead of, their partners) reported shorter labors, were more likely to breastfeed, and had more new-mommy confidence six weeks later than those who did not.

Research shows that the mere presence of another woman during labor lowers levels of anxiety, pain, and fear, says study author Della Campbell, RN, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. When you experience those emotions, your body releases a series of hormones that triggers muscles to relax. And this actually disrupts the labor process because the uterus needs to contract in order to push the baby out.

So is this the right move for you? Read on.

We're not suggesting you kick your significant other out of the room; in fact, this third party will be there for both of you. "Labor can be a stressful time for dads too," says Campbell. "And many men may actually feel more comfortable knowing they're not the only one in the room." The main point of the doula is to provide the mom-to-be with continuous, uninterrupted support -- so your husband won't feel guilty about making a bathroom run or stepping out to update the family in the waiting room.

"Anyone can hire a professional doula for extra labor support, but the key is comfort and trust," says Campbell. The beauty of having a female friend or relative with you is that you already have a relationship with that person and can immediately benefit from that in labor. Keep these tips in mind:

  • She's seen your ugly side. No one said labor's easy -- or pretty. You might be yelling or crying -- or even pooping or vomiting. Picture your BFF in all of these scenarios. Still want to ask her? Go for it.
  • She's not a drama queen. She's there to keep you calm, remember? You don't want someone who freaks out easily or who'll start recounting her own crazy birth stories when you're about to go into transition.
  • She gets your birth plan. Whether you're adamant about getting an epidural or attempting delivery drug-free, pick someone who supports -- not persuades.
  • She's reliable. Sounds obvious, but this is not the time to ask your always-20-minutes-late friend for help. Likewise, steer clear of pals who travel a ton for work. Sure, nothing's definite, but you might as well stack the deck with whoever's most dependable.



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