Tips for Labor Partners
Labor (partner) of love.
Watching a new life enter the world is an awe-inspiring experience, one that you won’t soon — or ever — forget. The role of a labor partner is an honor, and it carries with it some big responsibilities, too. Your job is to keep mom calm, encourage her, and just be there for her in any way she needs you. The labor partner is often the baby’s father, but can also be a close friend or family member. The advice we give here holds true for any labor partner.
If mom has a birth plan, go over it together so you’ll know what she wants during labor and delivery, and how you can help make it happen. It’s also helpful to attend childbirth preparation classes together, or to read up on your own about what to expect during childbirth. You can get an idea of what happens in our stages of labor and C-section delivery pages. Our guide for labor partners is broken down by labor stage, as each carries its own set of helpful tips.
Right now, mom is feeling excited, and probably a little nervous for what’s to come. You can help her by:
- Timing her contractions to get a sense of their rhythm and to know when to go to the hospital
- Helping her pack for the hospital — and don’t forget to pack for yourself, too
- Suggesting that she use this time to eat, shower, take little walks, and relax
- Assuring her that it’s all going to be OK
Labor becomes more intense now. It’s also painful, as the contractions work hard to open the cervix and push the baby down. The pain may lead mom to feel fearful, doubtful and anxious. She might grow more serious and less talkative, and may need encouragement that everything is going as it should and that she will make it through this.
Every mom is different, and so are their needs during labor. Some want lots of contact, while others turn inwardly for strength, and prefer no distractions from touch or talking. You’ll have to listen to her and read her signals to know what she needs from you, but here are a few helpful tips:
- Give her plenty of encouragement that she’s doing a great job. Tell her that you love her, and everything is going to be OK.
- Try coaching her breathing. Remind her to take big breaths in, big breaths out, and to not hold her breath or become tense in other areas of her body.
- Give her ice chips to hydrate herself and relieve a dry mouth, and a cool washcloth on her head if she’s feeling too warm.
- Massaging or putting pressure on her lower back may help if she’s feeling a lot of back pain.
Remember that it will be a long day (or night) for both of you, so keep yourself hydrated and energized with snacks, and rest when you can.
This is the most difficult part of labor, when the cervix opens the final three centimeters before pushing can begin. During this time mom is feeling contractions that are very strong, close together and painful. She may be shaking or vomiting, feeling irritable or panicked, and wants to give up. Luckily, this is a short phase, and she’ll be pushing the baby out next. You may feel helpless and worried watching her go through this, but stay strong for both of you.
- Continue to offer praise and encouragement that this part is almost over and the baby will be here soon.
- Realize that anything negative mom says to you is from the pain and fatigue of labor — don’t take it personally.
- Let a nurse know if she seems to be grunting or wanting to push.
- Be calm when talking with her and hospital staff.
- Stay close by her side and do whatever it takes to get her through this stage.
Pushing and Birth
Once her cervix is open to 10 centimeters, it’s time to push. Mom will likely feel a strong urge to do so, although that might not be the case if she’s had an epidural. Her mood and energy may start to improve, and she’ll have more of a break between contractions. Pushing may take a few minutes or a few hours, so your role is to support and encourage her as much as you can.
- You may need to hold her leg or back while pushing.
- Remind her to keep breathing, push hard when needed, and relax in between.
- As the baby emerges, tell her to open her eyes to take in this moment.
After the Birth
Mom is likely feeling relieved, hungry and exhausted, yet energized. You can help her order food, make calls to friends and family, take lots of pictures, and most of all, welcome the new baby.
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