You have a big job as the labor coach. You are the main person who will:
Help the mother as labor begins at home.
Stay and comfort her through labor and the birth.
Whether you are helping the mom breathe or giving her a backrub, you will also be a familiar face on a hectic day. Just being there counts for a lot. Here are some tips for getting prepared.
Before the Big Day Arrives
Go to childbirth classes. Labor coaches should go to childbirth classes with the mom-to-be before her due date. They will help you learn how to comfort and support her when the big day arrives.
Get to know the hospital. Go on tour of the hospital prior to the birth. A tour may be part of the childbirth classes. Talk with the staff on the labor and delivery unit to get an idea of what will happen on the big day.
Know what the mom expects. You and the mom should talk ahead of time about what should happen the day of delivery. Some points you can discuss include:
Does she want to use breathing techniques?
Does she want you to be hands-on?
How can you help soothe her pain?
How involved does she want the midwife to be?
When does she want to get pain medicine?
Natural childbirth is very hard work. A mom may decide on natural childbirth at first, but find that the pain is too much to bear when she is in labor. Talk with her ahead of time about how she wants you to respond at this point.
Write down a plan. A written plan for the labor and delivery will help make things clear ahead of time. Of course, when the contractions are in high gear, many of those decisions may change. That's ok. Give her your full support around how she wants to get through her labor and delivery.
When the Day Arrives
Bring things for yourself to the hospital. You might be there for many hours. Pack a bag with things for yourself like:
Books or magazines
Your mp3 player and headphones or small speakers
A change of clothes
Comfy shoes for walking up and down the hallways.
Be prepared to wait. Labor and delivery can be a long process. Be patient. You may have to wait a long time for the baby to be born.
At the Hospital
Be an advocate. There may be times when the mom needs something from the doctor or nurses. She may need for you to speak up for her.
Make decisions. At times you will have to make decisions for the mom. For example, if she is severe pain and can’t speak for herself, you may decide it is time to find a nurse or doctor who can help.
Encourage the mom. Labor is hard work. You can cheer her on and let her know that she is doing a good job.
Ease her discomfort.You can massage the mom’s lower back or help her take warm showers to ease the pains of childbirth.
Help her find a distraction. As labor gets more painful, it will help to have a distraction, or something that will take her mind off of what is happening. Some people bring items from home, like a photo or a teddy bear that the mom can focus on. Others find something in the hospital room, like a spot on the wall or on the ceiling.
Be flexible. The mom will get so focused during the contractions that she may not want or need you at all. She may ignore you, or may get angry at you or others in the room. Don’t 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 a very emotional journey. You can help her just by being there every step of the way!
Melanie N. Smith, MD, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.