Healthy Birth Practice 3:
Bring a Loved One, Friend, or Doula for Continuous Support
Adapted from The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence
In childbirth, as in many aspects of life, we humans do better when we’re surrounded by those we trust, people who tell us we’re doing well and encourage us forward. Good labor support is not watching the clock and checking IV lines and fetal monitor printouts. It’s making sure you’re not disturbed, respecting the time that labor takes, and reminding you that you know how to birth your baby. Your helpers should spin a cocoon around you while you’re in labor—create a space where you feel safe and secure and can do the hard work of labor without worry.
- Download the guide, Bring a Loved One, Friend, or Doula for Continuous Support, to find out about the research on continuous support in labor and learn about doulas (professional labor support professionals).
- Watch the video below to see how laboring women benefit from supportive labor partners.
- Visit Childbirth Connection for more resources on choosing your labor support team.
Continuous Labor Support
A. This is not a new concept. Ancient art depicts women giving birth surrounded by other women. This is how birth occurred in many civilizations for many years until about the 20th century when doctors moved birth to a hospital.
B. Having someone who is knowledgable and able to help you and/or your partner can greatly help the entire birth experience by reducing risk of cesarean, shortening the length of labor (by helping you with positioning and movement), and the ability to cope with labor by offering comfort measures.
Your partner is an essential support person for you to have by your side. However, your partner will need to eat and use the bathroom at times. Also, most partners have limited knowledge about birth, medical procedures, or what goes on in a hospital. Doulas and partners work together to make up a labor support team.
Having a baby is akin to running a marathon – laboring women need adequate nutrition and hydration to keep going. Some ideas: small amounts of cheese (1 oz), fruit, veggie pieces, rice cakes, honey sticks (can often be found at Farmer’s Markets). Stay away from heavy foods that may cause GI upset or nausea. Partners need to make sure they are eating and taking care of their needs as well so they can provide adequate support.
Preterm Labor and Warning Signs
notify your doula and doctor or midwife
Change in vaginal discharge. May increase significantly, become watery (question whether the amniotic fluid is leaking) or be blood-tinged.
Decreased fetal movement. Babies go through sleep/wake cycles throughout the day. If you notice your baby is not moving like normal or you can’t remember when you last felt your baby move, eat and drink something – something sugary and/or cold. Lay down on your left side and count how many times you feel your baby move within an hour. If you still have concerns, notify your provider.
Note from Lauren: When I was a nurse, patients often came in [to the hospital] for decreased fetal movement. Nine times out of ten, it turned out to be nothing at all to worry about, but every single time, we ALWAYS told our patients it is so much better to be safe, and to be able to put your mind at ease. Don’t ever feel guilty calling your provider with questions or concerns!
Pregnancy-induced hypertension or hypertension in pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) Swelling is normal and common during pregnancy. However, if you notice extreme/sudden swelling in your hands and face, or experience blurred vision, spots in front of your eyes, frequent/unexplained nausea/vomiting, pain in the upper-right side of your belly, headaches that don’t go away with rest, hydration and a decent diet, please notify your provider. Chances are, they will recommend some blood work which will help diagnose or rule-out this condition.
Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours. If you are unable to tolerate food/water, you can become dehydrated, which can lead to pre-term contractions.
Additional warning signs of pre-term labor are lower abdominal cramping, bleeding, and frequent or severe urinary tract infections.
A Tip from Lauren:
It helps if you and your partner understand the anatomy of a pregnant vs. non-pregnant woman. Notice how near the end of your pregnancy, your organs are all quite smashed together. Partners, you can see why Mom has to run to the bathroom every 15 minutes! Add a wiggling baby, or occasional Braxton-Hicks contractions, which push the baby and uterus DOWN – and you can REALLY see why Mom has to pee so frequently – and sometimes urgently!
Notice how the bladder sits just under the uterus? If a urinary tract infection becomes severe enough to cause bladder spasms, it can also irritate the uterus, which may cause it to contract, leading to pre-term labor.