Tips For Labor Coaches
Your role as a labor coach in the birth of the new child is very important. You are the person who will assist the mom during her contractions prior to delivery and will stay in the hospital room through the birth. Through soothing techniques like helping mom breath and rubbing her back, you will be a great source of comfort and support throughout the childbirth. Above all, you will be a familiar face in a day of entirely unfamiliar people and events. Just being there counts for a lot!
Here are some tips for the big day:
- Be prepared: You should attend birthing classes with the mom-to-be prior to the due date. You will learn many techniques and activities that will help you when the big day arrives.
- Know what to expect: It is a good idea to go on a tour of the hospital to get familiar with its layout. Talk with nurses or other staff members to get an idea of what will happen on delivery day and what you should expect.
- Have patience: The process of labor and delivery is often lengthy; that's why it's important to have patience and be ready to wait.
- Be supportive: She will need you there to be her advocate and cheerleader. Take time to comfort and distract her with warm showers or massaging her lower back.
- Bring things for yourself: You might be at the hospital for many hours, so it is important to bring things for yourself like snacks, something to read or headphones to listen to music, comfortable shoes for walking up and down the hallways, toiletries, and a change of clothes.
- Make decisions: At times you will have to evaluate a situation and act quickly based on the information. For example, if the mom is severe pain and wants an epidural, you may have to find a nurse or doctor who will be able to help.
- Know her expectations: You and the mom should discuss both of your expectations for the day of delivery. It is critical to know what she wants and expects prior to arriving at the hospital. Does she want to use breathing techniques? Does she want the midwife to play a critical role? Does she want you to be hands-on? A written statement of birth preferences will help clarify these decisions. Of course, when the contractions are in high gear, many of these decisions may "go out the window"! That's ok, too. During labor, mom generally will do anything that helps her get through it, which may include abandoning birth preferences.
- Discuss her wishes about pain medicine ahead of time: Natural childbirth is really, really hard work. It’s a little like running a marathon – if you’re committed to making it all 26 miles, you need solid help and encouragement all the way. Nobody stands on the sidelines of a marathon offering cab vouchers to runners. Similarly, labor coaches and well-intentioned health care providers shouldn’t keep offering drugs to a mom who’s trying to do natural childbirth. On the other hand, the best laid plans sometimes run amuck during a long and painful labor. Talk with your partner ahead of time about how she’ll tell you when enough is really enough. If she decides she wants medication, it’s important to support her decision fully.
- Find a distraction: As the contraction pains begin to get closer and more painful, it is recommended that you and the mom find a distraction that will take her mind off of what's happening. Some people bring items from home like a photo or teddy bear that the mom can focus on. While others find something in the hospital room like a spot on the wall or on the ceiling.
- Be flexible and understanding: Mom will get so focused during the contractions that she may not want or need you after all. She may seem to ignore you, or may get angry at you or others in the room. Remember not to take anything said during labor personally. It will all be a blur after the baby is born!
- Remember, just having you there will mean so much to her: Having a child is perhaps one of the most emotional journeys anyone can embark on and you will be there every step of the way!
Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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