Being the best support person

Being a support person during a woman's labour can be a very intense thing to do. It can be really challenging to see your loved one in pain, often feeling an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Supporting someone throughout labour could be compared to running a marathon next to someone, except you feel no pain and there is no way to tell how far away the finish line is. Don't be frightened, the reward always outweighs the pain and endurance experienced in the journey of labour. Witnessing a woman give birth and become a mother to a new life is an indescribable experience, that only those who have witnessed will ever understand. Whether she is your partner, daughter, sister or friend, just being by her side is a great step towards being a wonderful support person. Here are ten tips to help you be the best support person you can be!


1-      Read the books and do the classes

Being educated on the normality of labour will help you understand what she is going through. It will also comfort you knowing that the pain she is experiencing is healthy pain, something that needs to happen in order for your baby to be born. Reading the same books as her will also help you support her with different coping mechanisms she is working with. You might be able to remind her of different techniques along the way, making you feel helpful, but most importantly, helping her to cope!


2-      Be present

This might sound obvious, but to some it's not. Physically being in the room is not always enough, especially if you’re spending the whole time on your phone playing Candy Crush, trying to kill time. This will not only infuriate her, it might even stall her labour. Instead of focussing on contractions and allowing those good hormones to flow, she is focussing on you and how frustrated she is with you. Put the phone down, there will be plenty of time to beat those levels in the future.


3-      Know her birth preferences and support them

Whether it's to avoid all medical pain relief or have them all ASAP, you need to keep your opinions to yourself. Remembering it is her body, her labour and she is the one that has to deal with the physical triumph of it all. Having discussions during the pregnancy about how she would like to manage the pain is the main focus behind most birth preferences. Educating everyone involved on the pros and cons of each method is important for informed consent to be achieved. However, no one actual knows how they will cope. Doing all the preparations in the world will definitely help, but there are so many variables in labour that are out of anyone's control.


4-      Take a break

Now, this might sound contradictory to the “be present” part of this blog, except it's not! In order to be the best support person you can be, you need to be in the right zone. If you’re hungry or busting for the toilet, you will be distracted and unable to provide the much-needed support. Taking a short break to regroup and take a breath is defiantly ok.


5-      Praise her

Tell her she is beautiful, that you love her and you are proud of her. She is going to need to hear this for encouragement and motivation to keep going. These words of love and compassion will also boost those beautiful oxytocin levels and keep her labour moving.


6-      Be mindful of your breath

We all know pregnant women have a heightened sense of smell. Adding the intensity of labour to this gives women supersonic smell and they will smell Doritos from a mile away! Remember after you take a break, smash a coffee and a snack, pop a mint in. Better yet, brush your teeth! No one loves bad breath, especially a labouring woman!


7-      Speak up

If you feel something is not right, or you are confused by something, chances are she is feeling it too. She just might not have the capacity to say anything. You need to step up and be the one that asks the questions and gets things clarified. Midwives and doctors love questions, please don't be scared!


8-      Be patient

Every hour you’re experiencing probably feels twice as long to her. She doesn't need to be worrying about you.  If your unable to deal with the endurance, you probably shouldn't be there. Work on your poker face and don't let her hear you asking how long it's going to be!


9-      Create ambiance

Dim the lights, turn on the music and get some beautiful smells flowing. Even if she doesn't realise it as the time, she will appreciate this. Subtle techniques like these can reduce anxiety and allow her to feel safe, calm and secure, which in turn, will help labour progress.


10-  Embrace the silence

Labour goes through many different stages. Each with their own challenges. During some stages, making conversations can work as great distraction tool, to kill time and lighten the mood. During most labours, there will be a point at which this small talk is no longer appropriate, nor is it useful. If she stops responding, stop talking. She will ask for things if needed. Silence is needed for most women in between contractions in order to regroup, rest and focus for the next contraction. Feel the room and read her vibes!