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    Suggestions for the Labor Partner

    The experience of being a birth partner is truly a gratifying and amazing one. The role of giving labor support is unique. Whether you are her husband, partner, lover or friend, your presence at the baby's birth will be long remembered.

    You will want to give the mother reassurance and inspire confidence along the way. Your support will help to reduce fear and tension. Sharing this experience together, and being sensitive to her needs will positively impact the birth.

    By taking childbirth classes together and practicing the techniques learned in the class, you will find your confidence increase in your role as the labor support person. You will become knowledgeable with what best soothes and relaxes her. You will soon have a clearer understanding of what her priorities or desires might be for the birth. Anticipating her needs and working with her throughout labor will help make this a most wonderful experience.

    Many labor support persons find it difficult to think of things to say in labor without sounding repetitive. Time may pass more quickly if she hears continuous encouragement from you. The following are examples of supportive things to say while she is in labor. You can also work together to come up with some phrases you can use:

    • "You are doing fine. The baby is fine."

    • "It's only a matter of seconds."

    • "I love you."

    • "Hang in there."

    • "I'm so proud of you."

    • "The contraction is building; stay focused and concentrate."

    • "It's peaking; stick with it; it's almost over."

    • "It's getting stronger, but you're in control."

    • "The contraction is fading; coming down; almost over."

    • "Keep going, you're doing great."

    • "Picture the cervix stretching and opening."

    • "Keep your breathing slow, relaxed and even."

    • "It's hard, but you are doing fine."

    It is important that you be there and keep talking to her. You cannot repeat yourself too often, especially when it reminds her to relax and stay focused.

    Providing labor support can present many opportunities and challenges. You may also find it very helpful to have all factual information about birth readily available for immediate reference. If you have any particular concerns or questions about any stage of labor, ask your childbirth instructor, physician, midwife, or labor and delivery nurse(s).

    Activities to try in the prenatal period that may assist relaxation of the perineum:

    • Kegels/Pelvic-Floor Bulging

    • Perineal Massage (Discuss with your physician or midwife)

    • Education - Know what to expect during the pushing stage and effective pushing techniques

    Activities to try during the pushing stage to help relax the perineum:
    • Release the perineum by doing a Kegel squeeze and relax.

    • Use various positions. Gravity assisted positions are the most advantageous.

    • Cooperate with your physician, midwife and labor nurse(s) during the birth (i.e. lie back and blow if instructed not to push to allow your baby to come out slowly, and stretch the perineum gradually).

    • Warm compression on perineum by your coach.

    Tips for Helping a Laboring Woman
    Labor at times can be overwhelming, and causes some women to feel like they are losing control and may make them panic. The following tips are meant to be suggestions to assist you in seeing the signs of overwhelm or panic in her so you can help:

    • During labor itself, observe her carefully. When she first shows signs of struggle during a contraction—such as breathing more loudly, moaning or has restless and agitated movements—stand up and breathe with her rather than wait until she panics.

    • If, however, she does lose control—perhaps a contraction comes up very sharply and suddenly, or you leave the room for a few minutes and return to find her obviously overwhelmed, do the following:

      • Get in a position where she can see you, preferably standing beside her or sitting on the bed. Position yourself so you are looking her in the eye.

      • Hold her hand or face to get her attention through touch. This helps her feel your presence.

      • Demonstrate a slow, controlled breathing rate. Do the breathing with her, loud enough so she can follow your lead. Slow her breathing to a quiet, rhythmic pace.

      • Stay with her as long as is required to help her gain control. Put on the call-light for your nurse, and ask for assistance!

      • If all else fails, bring your face close to hers so she must look at you. Focus her attention. If she cannot make eye contact with you, place your hands on her cheeks and focus her attention to your eyes. Be persistent.

      • Most important, do not leave her and keep yourself calm and relaxed.
    Although this sounds simple, it's hard work being a coach. During practice breathing sessions, have her act as if she were losing control.