When you listen to these stories, you may get the impression that labor is something horrific that happens to women. In fact, labor is a natural function. The role of a support person is just to make it easier and help a woman get on with the task. When you agree to be a support person you are on your way to being a participant in a small piece of history - the birth of a baby.
Recent medical studies have shown that women who have people present to offer support during labor have shorter, more comfortable, labors with fewer complications. They have fewer forceps deliveries and caesarean sections than those without support. They also require less pain medication during the labor. Their babies have fewer problems at birth. The mothers who have support during labor also report more pleasant memories of their birth experience.
Labor support does not necessarily start upon arrival at the hospital. You, as a support person, can prepare yourself for the momentous occasion by doing some reading beforehand. There are many articles available that contain useful information. In addition, try to go with the mother-to-be to some of the prenatal visits to the doctor. This will give you a chance to be part of the birth plan and an idea of what to expect.
If possible, go to prenatal classes with the mother-to-be. There you will learn how you can help her with her breathing exercises and her relaxation. You will also learn how to help her assume more comfortable positions; how to relax between contractions and how to use the time wisely between contractions.
Many hospitals provide tours of the labor and delivery rooms. They often show films to familiarize the public with their procedures. Attending the tours is a good opportunity to find out where the parking is, how to register (especially if the baby decides to arrive late at night), and where the labor room is. When it is time to go to the hospital, things will go more smoothly if travel plans have been organized in advance.
When a mother is in early labor, she is often more comfortable at home. She will feel safer and more relaxed if she has a support person who stays with her, and who is able to keep her company. In fact, no woman in labor should be left alone. By having someone readily available, she can relax and concentrate on preparing herself for the birth of her child. It can be reassuring for her to have someone time the contractions and monitor her progress.
After you arrive at the hospital and are settled, plan to stay by the mother’s side. Your continual presence will provide her with a sense of security. Remember the hospital environment is just as unfamiliar to her as it is to you. The difference for her is that she has to remain focused and concentrate on the task ahead. To help her focus, you can try to keep her comfortable using some of the suggestions that you have learned from your reading and the prenatal classes.
Just reminding her about changing position or offering a back rub can help ease her discomfort. Helping her arrange her pillows may seem insignificant, but it can make a difference when she cannot seem to get comfortable on her own. Offer her an arm to lean on if she walks up and down the hall. Contractions are intensified by walking and physical support can reduce the discomfort.
Having a baby is hard work. Some women equate it to playing two football games back to back. The mother in labor needs frequent light nourishment to keep up her energy during labor. As a support person, you can offer drinks or light snacks often. The mother is working hard and might not remember to look after her own needs. You may even need to remind her to empty her bladder every hour or two.
Helping the mother relax is an important part of helping her during labor. Most women find they are able to relax easily in the early stages. As the labor intensifies, it becomes more difficult for them to relax as they have to concentrate more and more on their labor and contractions; often they are not able to do anything else. They may feel that the contractions are more than they can handle, or that they are losing control.
Some women become irritable or weepy or feel they are not coping very well. Many mothers who have already given birth have remarked how much better they were able to cope with the physical changes they were experiencing just because there was someone helping. This is a very important task of a support person. An acknowledgment of how hard she is working and a reminder that the baby will soon be there can be helpful.
Often talking about the contractions and the progress of the labor will help the mother-to-be cope with the physical experience of birth. If you yourself have moments where you feel you are going to lose control - do not panic. Remember you have nurses and a doctor close by to help you and the mother.
Anyone can. Most women will choose someone close to them, either their mate, a relative, or a close friend. In many cultures in the past, a family member or friend, usually a female, would remain with a pregnant mother during her labor and delivery. The Greeks used the word “doula” to describe the female of the household who would provide this support. Doula means “woman’s servant” or “one who mothers the
Today a doula is a woman who has experience in childbirth and who uses this experience to provide support to a mother before, during and after childbirth. She can be thought of as a trained support person. The presence of doulas on the maternity wards in hospitals is gradually increasing. They have been found to improve the birth experience of both the laboring mother and the infant.
Most women agree that the birth of a child is something they will remember all of their lives. Human companionship during labor and delivery is important. Your continuous physical and emotional support can reduce complications. It can also make the birthing experience a pleasant memory for the mother. Sharing the birthing experience is a chance of a lifetime and can be very rewarding for you when you are a support person.