A Nurse’s Guide to Supporting Your Partner in Labour

I see it all too often – a woman who has requested a natural child-birth is in the throes of labour, while a sheepish-looking partner is sitting in the corner. Being someone’s support person is not for the faint-hearted: It is often a thankless job that is both mentally and physically draining. It’s so hard to see your loved one in pain, and you may feel like there is nothing you can do to help them.

At the end of the day, it’s helpful to remember that all of the blood, sweat and tears will be so worth it when you meet your new son or daughter. So, to help you all get through this relatively unscathed, here are some tips for supporting your partner in labour. If you are interested in finding out how you or your partner can have a positive labour experience, you can read my post about it here.

Support Your Partner in Labour by Being There

If you’re going to be her support person, you need to be there no matter what. Depending on the woman, sometimes your presence will be all she wants. Knowing that you will be there through thick and thin, holding her hand, pacing up and down the hall the hall with her, waiting for her outside the shower stall and asking to cut the cord will mean the world to her. She will want to know that you are just as excited about meeting your new baby as she is.

It’s OK if you need to go to the washroom or to find some food to eat. Just let her and the nursing staff know how long you will be gone. Make sure to bring your cell phone and try to come back within that specified time frame.

Listen and Follow Her Instructions. Carefully!

I always start my relationship with a mom by stating, “I am here for you and your baby. That’s it. So if you need absolutely anything, if you don’t like what I’m doing, or if you have any questions, just tell me”. As her partner, you want to be helpful too, so let her know that you don’t mind helping and then do what she says!

Simple as that.

The following are some ideas on what she may expect or want from you as a support person

  • Give her a drink or feed her ice chips
  • Help her reposition in bed
  • Be the person she leans on during contractions when walking
  • Hold her hand during contractions (I would recommend just giving her two fingers – labouring women have super-human strength!)
  • Help her apply chapstick
  • Provide updates to family and friends (only if requested)
  • Apply cool wash cloths to her forehead
  • Provide back massages or pressure on hips
  • Put a heating pad on her back

Don’t Get Impatient

We all know that it feels like your partner has been in labour for forever. You all haven’t slept, you’re hungry and you’ve been on your feet for 10 hours. But there is no sense asking the ridiculous question, “when is our baby going to be coming? Do I have time to lie down?” Because we just don’t have the answer to that question!

Sure, we know that generally women dilate an average of 1 cm / hour once active labour has started, but some women progress quicker and some much slower. We must all play the waiting game, and be as helpful as possible until your baby decides to make her grand entrance.

Encourage Her

At one point in time during labour and delivery, a mama will say something along the lines of “I can’t. I just can’t do this any more. I want to go home”.

What do we do when she thinks she has hit her limit? Let her go walk out those Labour & Delivery doors?!

Of course not! We encourage her!

We tell her that she can do it, that’s she is doing amazing, and that we know she’s got this. She’s strong, she’s brave, and that we are so impressed with her progress so far. Sometimes the difference in whether or not a mom gives up is whether she has had the encouragement and she believes she can persevere even when she has no more gas in the tank. This is one of the most important things to do when supporting a woman through labour.

Breathe With Her During Contractions

Contractions are awful. They come, they go, they come again, all the while becoming progressively stronger and stronger. It’s easy for a mom to become anxious every time a contraction comes. This tension can prevent baby from coming down the birth canal. Help her through each and every contraction by quietly talking to her, helping her breathe through them and remind her that they will pass and she will get another break.

Try Not to Take it Personally

For some woman, vocalizing is a great outlet that helps them get through labour. So, because she completely trusts you as her support person and knows that you are there for her no matter what, she may end up using you as a sounding board. She may have a harder time telling her nurse that she met an hour ago that those back massages are making her skin crawl, but she won’t have an issue telling you. It may be hard to listen to her lash out, but try to remember that she is dealing with a lot of stress and pain. Chances are she will apologise to you after and thank you for understanding.

Don’t Embarrass Her

During labour, your partner may deal with a lot of things that is outside her comfort zone. For most of us, we are not used to leaking bodily fluids, yelling out in pain and displaying private parts to people that we barely know. It is easy for women to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable if she ends up pushing out something else while trying to push out your beautiful baby’s massive head or after yelling out obscenities. Try not to make fun of her for whatever happens in the L&D suite, as we all know that she is not being herself.

Continue to Support Her After Baby is Born

Being a labouring mamas support person is such a difficult job, and usually it doesn’t end there. Most likely she will want to have someone, usually her partner if she has one, to stay the night to help her with baby. And just because she is planning to breastfeed, doesn’t mean that she will be doing it all on her own! The best thing a dad/support person can do at least while in hospital is to get up with baby when she cries, change her diaper, and hand baby to mom for her feeding. You may be exhausted, but trust me: Mama has gone through far more! Nothing irks nursing staff more than a dad sleeping through his newborns cries the first night!

Have any of you had experience supporting your partner in labour? Have you been a support person before? Are you a mom that wished her partner had been more supportive during labour and delivery? Please add your thoughts to the comment section below!

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TheMamaNurse

Hi! I am a Registered Nurse on a unit that encompasses labour and delivery, postpartum, medical, surgical and palliative care in a rural hospital in Ontario, Canada. I am a mom of two and am passionate about women's rights, mom and infant care, parenting and nursing. I hope to create an educational, entertaining and highly relatable resource for women around the world. Thanks for stopping by! Xo, The Mama Nurse

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