The most common suggestions I make to clients during late pregnancy is for them to stay informed, rested and positive. (Create a bubble-of-peace around you!) During labor, I suggest they relax with music, aromatherapy, dim lighting, and hydrotherapy. While a client is at home during early labor, I typically suggest that she enjoys a long, warm bath to relax her muscles completely so she might be able to sleep between contractions. It is important for her to rest and allow labor to advance on its own. At the hospital, a long, warm shower provides pain relief but also facilitates labor progress.
There are more tips for labor progress listed at AskDrSears.com. This website is chock-full of many wonderful articles that address topics such as breastfeeding, nutrition, and vaccines. Take a look and see why I recommend this website to all my doula clients.
Traditionally, women in labor were surrounded by other women who had knowledge about childbirth. A midwife might have attended a homebirth along with the laboring woman's sisters, friends and mother who all had the necessary skills to support and comfort. With the development of obstetrics and 99% of babies being born in US hospitals or birth centers, women became estranged from the birth process, and family members lost their knowledge and confidence to guide a woman during childbirth. This is where a doula steps in to help. Doulas are trained to use comfort measures to prevent the need for pain medication, use positioning or acupressure to progress a stalled or slow labor, and to assist with breastfeeding immediately after the baby's birth. NPR wrote a tidy, quick summary of the popularized term "doula" and how we differ from midwives.
Often after the birth of their baby, a new dad or partner will tell me that they couldn't have effectively supported their wife in labor without my help. (Sometimes I think my support is needed more by dads/partners than the birthing mama.) The truth is that everyone present needs support during labor whether they birth at home or in the hospital. Here is an interesting article that ran in The Huffington Post written by a new father and how he benefited by having a birth doula present during his wife's labor.
Be well and happy,