Practices that Promote Healthy Birth: Continuous Labor Support

There was a drastic difference in the labor experiences I had for both of my children. Besides labor induction in one case and not the other, I had a labor doula who provided continuous support for me while I was making the journey to have my second son. Looking back and reflecting on the number of benefits I had through Karen (my doula) I wish I had opted for one with my first child also. The differences in my labors and experiences are partially contributed to my doula. This brings me to third practice that promotes healthy birth: Continuous Labor Support!

Support from my incredible doula Karen Kilson, who passed away last October

Not everyone must have a doula to experience continuous labor support; a partner, husband, friend, or other support person can make up an effective labor support team.

Continuous labor support means :

  • Physical support - Help moving into more comfortable positions, massage, back rubs, feet rubs, and helping the mother in whatever needs, from laboring in the shower to getting in and out of the bath tub.
  • Informational Support - Someone to help provide mom with unbiased support regarding decisions she would have to make in labor, from interventions to critical surgical choices. Also, the support person can assist in relaying a mother's birth plan or discuss any issues she is having to staff members.
  • Emotional Support - This can come in many forms. From the showering of love and encouragement, to helping her to relieve stress. High levels of stress in a laboring mother can cause problems and increase her pain levels.

While continuous support can come from anyone, hiring a doula for labor can help alleviate the worry from your partner, who may at times feel stressed or helpless during labor and birth. According to DONA International, a well-respected Doula certifying association, a birth doula:

  • Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
  • Stays with the woman throughout labor
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions
  • Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and her clinical care providers
  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
  • Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level

So who should be part of this team supporting you through your labor?

  • Choose people who you know will be helpful, instead of those who you think may distract you from being focused during labor.
  • Choose people who you are familiar with, or who are willing to learn about the birth process and what you would like to achieve in your experience in labor and birth.
  • Pick people you know will learn your birth preferences and who will be an advocate for you.
  • Ask your support person(s) to attend your birthing classes with you.
  • Before labor, practice relaxation techniques and other techniques you want to try during labor.

To understand more about continuous labor support, view the Mother's Advocate & Lamaze video for Better Birth on labor support:

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Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula's presence at birth:

  • Tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
  • Reduces negative feelings about the mother's childbirth experience
  • Reduces the need for pitocin, forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
  • Reduces the mother's request for pain medication and/or epidurals

Research shows that parents who receive support:

  • Feel more secure and cared for
  • Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
  • Experience greater success with breastfeeding
  • Have greater self-confidence
  • Are less likely to have postpartum depression

Support during labor, whether it is from a doula, another form of hired labor support, or a friend or family member, is your key to having a healthy and positive birth experience.



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