- Help her stay in the moment while you plan ahead.
A laboring mom’s job is to take one contraction at a time. But the partner can help by thinking ahead. Maybe you’re slow dancing together, and all is well. It’s helpful for the partner to think about what to suggest when mom is ready to move on. Maybe she’d like to try the shower, sit on the birth ball, go for a walk. We measure time during labor with contractions, so rather than suggest walking for fifteen minutes, suggest trying it for five contractions.
- Monitor input and output.
Once she gets to active labor, a woman should be drinking a glass of fluid an hour to keep up with her hydration. Fill her class with juice, coconut water, or broth every hour and remind her to take sips between contractions. Prompting her to pee every hour will help keep her bladder empty. A full bladder can compete with the baby for space.
- If you are transitioning from home to a hospital or birth center during labor, help her get back to doing what was working for her before.
The car ride, answering questions, meeting new people, being in the place where she’s going to have the baby, can cause your partner to secrete adrenaline, which slows down labor. Help her find her rhythm again so the contractions can pick up. If she was laboring in the shower or tub at home, help her get back into water. If she was walking, help her get out of the room and walk the halls.
- Make positive suggestions.
If you see her tensing a part of her body during contractions, gently remind her to relax or release that area. (Don’t say: “don’t be tense,” that just reinforces what you don’t want). I love you is usually a nice thing to hear in labor. If the OB or midwife says something encouraging, try repeating what he or she has said.
- Don’t make changes during contractions.
During contractions don’t turn the lights off or the music on, don’t ask a question, don’t chat with the nurse. If you’re not actively helping, try to be as still as possible.
- Don’t take anything personally.
If she rejects your suggestion or gives you a direction, try to take it calmly and move on.
- Remember to take care of yourself too.
Take bathroom and snack breaks when you need them during early and active labor. You are probably a calmer, more patient person when your needs are taken care of. Expect to be with her all the time during transition and pushing, which are the most intense times for most women. Eat bland foods so you don’t smell like you’re lunch, since women are sometimes nauseous in labor. Pack a sweater or sweatshirt, since mom’s are usually hot in labor the room will likely be cool. If you take an over the counter headache medication, have some on hand for yourself, just in case.
- Turn off your phone so you can give your partner your complete attention.
- If she has written a birth plan or has specific requests, help her communicate that to the birth team.
If an intervention is suggested, ask questions about benefits, risks, and options between contractions. What would happen if you did nothing? Remember that most situations are non-emergencies, in which case there is time for a second opinion.
- If you have concerns or questions, discuss them with your doula, nurse or midwife.
She is there to support you, and help you support your partner.
Julie Brill, CCCE, CLD specializes in natural, VBAC, and refresher childbirth classes in the Boston area and via Skype. She also offers Prepare for Cesarean Birth, Heal Faster workshops over the phone. She trains childbirth educators and labor doulas for CAPPA and is the author of the doula anthology Round the Circle: Doulas Share Their Experiences.