Throughout time, pregnant women have seldom labored alone—rather, they have given birth with support from family, friends, and in hospitals, with support from nurses and pregnancy care providers.
You may have heard that you will need continuous support during labor—but what does that mean? Continuous labor support means receiving encouragement and expert care from the nurses, and your family or friends who may be with you as you labor.
Continuous labor support helps promote vaginal birth, can shorten the length of your labor, and decrease the need for cesarean surgery. It has also been shown to decrease interventions into birth, including the use of vacuum or forceps. Birthing with support improves outcomes for both you and your baby, and results in fewer negative feelings about your childbirth experiences.
Your nurses and your support persons can provide you with handson comfort and help you progress toward birth. Your nurses will guide you through shared decision-making around birth choices through clear explanations of procedures and your birthing options.
What are My Options for Continuous Labor Support?
You can seek continuous labor support from your partner or spouse, family members or close friends, from a doula or from your labor and delivery nurse.
Childbirth classes often emphasize the importance of labor support and practicing coping techniques for use in labor. You will likely discover that changing your position in labor, focusing on your breathing, and relaxing in between contractions are key coping techniques. You may find that the close relationship you have with your spouse, partner, family member or friend will be all the continuous labor support you will need. However, a more formally trained labor support person may also be what works best for you.
What is a Doula?
Doulas are becoming more common as hired labor support assistants who work directly with you and who also interface with you and your hospital care team so that you can relax and focus on your labor and baby. Doulas are “trained professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to you before, during, and shortly after childbirth to help you achieve the healthiest, most satisfying birth experience possible.”
A certified doula serves as an advocate for you and your family, providing emotional and physical support, sharing information about options and coping techniques, and assisting in communicating your choices and preferences to the hospital staff and your doctor or midwife. Some birthing facilities have developed doula programs and may offer either volunteer or fee-based doula services to birthing persons.
How Do I Find a Doula?
Some hospitals offer volunteer doula services during labor and birth, but many doulas are hired by you—the birthing person. Services doulas offer include but aren’t limited to:
- Helping you create a birth plan that is individualized for you and your family
- Consultations after prenatal visits for additional advice and encouragement
- Support you in the early labor period and suggest breathing and relaxation techniques for labor and birth
- Help you use tools like birthing and peanut balls to get into more comfortable and supported positions that help labor progress and help your baby in moving down into your pelvis
- Visit you shortly after birth to provide postpartum recovery support
- Help you begin and sustain nursing with your new baby
If you are interested in hiring a doula, ask your healthcare provider or friends in local online moms groups for their recommendations, or simply search for a doula near you.
Labor Support From Nurses
If you’re birthing in a hospital, your nurses will provide care and support during labor, birth, and as you begin postpartum recovery. Nurses will respect the choices that you and your partner make for your health and that of your baby.
Your labor and delivery nurses will be actively engaged in supporting you through your birthing experience, monitoring your baby’s response to labor and uniquely aware of the options available for you at your chosen birthing center or hospital. They can help your partner, family or doula in obtaining blankets, pillows, birthing balls, and suggest helpful positions for labor and provide comfort as they encourage you to remain active during labor.
Nurses can help you navigate the birth center or hospital, explain procedures and interventions, provide information, and make assessments to share with you as you make informed decisions about your labor and baby’s birth. Nurses will regularly communicate with your pregnancy provider and act as both an advocate and liaison. Your labor and delivery nurse will also respond to emergencies that may occur, ensuring you and your baby have a safe birthing experience.
Lastly, nurses are an amazing source of information and education about recovering from birth and what to expect once you’re back at home with baby. Don’t hesitate to ask your questions; nurses are caring experts who have the goal of educating and supporting your optimal birth and recovery.
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