Must-Know Labor Tips for Your Partner
By Liesel Teen, L&D RN
Prepping your birth ‘tool kit’ is an important step as your due date draws near. Becoming informed and educated about birth is one of the best steps you can take towards a more positive birth experience. By doing things like reading pregnancy blogs and articles about birth (like this one!), spending time on pregnancy forums, and (hopefully!) taking a birth class, you’re doing so much to erase the unknowns surrounding birth.
One important aspect of your birth tool kit not to overlook? A well prepared partner! Your support person can do SO much to help you have a more positive birth experience. That’s why I’m so excited to be here today to talk to y’all about preparing your partner for the birth!
I’m Liesel, an L&D nurse and the face behind Mommy Labor Nurse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed partners feeling frustrated and helpless while their loved one endures the intensity of labor. I always do my best to give them tips in the moment, but YOU can help your support person prepare now. I’m a big fan of getting partners involved in labor to help mom. Don’t let them be the helpless partner––show them that there’s actually a LOT they can do to help. Here are my top tips!
1. Learn how to apply counter pressure
One of the most effective and hands-on things your partner can do to support you in labor is applying counter pressure during a contraction. This is a totally natural pain intervention that so many mamas respond positively to. It can be especially helpful during back labor but is a good technique for everyone!
The idea is to apply firm, intense pressure to the sides of mom’s hips or the small of her back during a contraction. The counter pressure can do a LOT to relieve some of the contraction pain. When the pressure is hard and constant against mom’s hips it can also help fan out her hips just slightly and encourage cervical dilation. This one is a serious winner!
Have your partner practice the move ahead of time to get the positioning right and get the awkwardness of the angle out of the way. Mama can sit on a chair backwards, be on all fours, or drape over a yoga ball.
2. Remind mom to relax
The reminder to relax during the peak of a contraction can be powerful during labor. It’s said that the muscles around your mouth and the muscles within your vagina are oddly connected!
Ina May Gaskin, the famous midwife and natural birth advocate, recommends focusing on a relaxed jaw during contracts to encourage cervical dilation, and she’s definitely on to something. So have your partner remind you to relax (which, trust me, may feel impossible) because it WILL help.
Keeping a relaxed mouth is actually one of my top 25 tips for a natural birth, be sure to check out the rest!
birth plan discussion guide with your partner
What are our thoughts on a hospital vs. birthing center vs. home birth?
Who will we notify when labor begins? How?
What type of support will be most effective when the going gets tough?
Who will communicate on mom's behalf if necessary?
3. Help with changing positions
As your labor progresses, it can get pretty dang hard to change positions, especially once you hit transition! For example, going from standing over the side of the delivery table to all fours on the table as the urge to push begins can be nearly impossible without support. Make sure your partner is aware of this ahead of time so they can help out and even suggest positional changes.
This goes for any time during labor, too! Your partner can be a big help by suggesting changes or reminding you of other positions and options throughout your labor to help you progress. Sometimes mamas get stuck in their own heads and can’t be proactive about finding a means of comfort or making a change.
There are so many different positions you can do solo or with your partner. Learn about the best laboring positions to prepare together!
4. Keep the positive affirmations coming
Birth affirmations, in any shape or form, are an excellent tool for birth and a great way for your partner to feel like they are doing something. Sure, they’re nice to hear, but they can actually help you progress in labor too. Yes, seriously!
When someone tells you that you’re doing a great job, you get that “feel-good-feeling”, am I right? Well, that feeling is caused by oxytocin. And oxytocin is the SAME hormone that’s responsible for making you contract and progress further during labor. YES!
“I am proud of you.”
"You're doing beautifully"
“What you’re doing Is ancient… your mother, your grandmother and your great grandmothers all the way back have done this. they’re all proud of you tonight.”
“You only have to do this one.” [push]
“You are strong.”
“Lean on me.”
“I’m with you.”
“You can do this.”
“I believe in you.”
5. Prepare to back mama up
Another great way for your partner to support you is through advocacy! Make sure your partner knows your wishes and desires for your birth so that they can prepare to back you up. They can help ask questions, ask for clarification, get more support if you need it, and request space (when it’s medically safe).
One thing that I notice about mamas who have positive birth experiences in my unit? They have a super support person on their team. Your partner can be that person for you!
6. Most of all, follow mom’s lead
These labor tips for your partner will help them approach your birth with greater confidence and a sense of purpose. No partner wants to feel helpless as they watch their loved one go through labor. They need empowerment and education too!
But it’s important for your partner to always follow your lead. Everyone responds to labor interventions differently, and it will be most important for your support person to tune into you. They’ll need to pick up on your non-verbal cues and recognize what’s working best for mom. Then they can either keep doing that or make a change as needed.
Remember, no two labors are the same, and no two mamas respond to the same exact pain interventions. Reminders to relax, advocacy, trust and positivity are all essential components to the support that will give you a better birth.
Liesel Teen is a labor and delivery nurse (L&D RN), mama, the face behind the popular pregnancy Instagram page @mommy.labornurse and creator of the online childbirth class, Birth It Up. Birth is something she’s been passionate about for as long as she can remember, and she loves sharing her nursing knowledge to help mamas-to-be learn more about pregnancy and birth.