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This handout is for comfort measures from family and friends as birth support. For coping methods the woman can use and her support people can help with, see the coping with contractions handout.
Come into the birth space with reverence and respect. Listen to the birthing mother. Communicate on how she wants to be cared for. Wholeheartedly support her choices that she decides are right for her. Birth is a sacred space. Supporting birth is to work on sacred grounds.
Support what she wants for her healthcare and her body throughout maternity care especially birth. Genuinely support her preferences for her birth and her baby.
Refrain from talking about yourself or your preferences and the choices you would make. Stay focused on supporting her. Be careful not to pressure someone to make different choices based on what you feel is best. Do not downplay someone’s birth plan or breastfeeding goals due to your own experiences not following plan. Support her and if you can’t help her through something find resources for her.
Encourage her. Believe in her. Meet her emotional needs. Speak her affirmations and remind her of the scriptures that comfort her.
Listen to what she’s saying. Hear her. We need to find balance between statements of encouragement and statements of validation. For example, if she says “My back really hurts!” and her support partner says “You’re doing great!” that doesn’t really help her. Eventually, she will feel her statements are being dismissed and no one is really listening. Acknowledge that you hear her saying her back hurts. Ask how you can help or try a few suggestions for her back pain. Encouraging statements mean a lot coming from someone you love, but we need to use active listening skills too.
Offer guidance on different things y’all can try. It may be better to discuss an option in between contractions rather than during. Use suggestions rather than commands. Instead of “Do this.” or “Try this.” think about saying things like “Do you want to try ____?” or “I wonder if it would help if we _____.” or “How do you feel about doing ____?” We want to speak in a way that respects autonomy and has the patient leading their care.
Ask for consent before trying something for the first time especially if it’s an intimate technique. For example, hip squeezes are loved by many women but if they’re not familiar with that technique it may catch them off guard to have someone come up behind them and grab them. If possible, explain or demonstrate on yourself where you’ll put your hands for a method.
Use the coping techniques that provide her with some relief or comfort. Communicate about what those things are. Read the handout on coping with contractions.
Invite feedback on your support. Is she comfortable? Welcome communication such as “Let me know if anything is uncomfortable” or “Please be comfortable telling me what you like and don’t like or if you want me to adjust anything.” Pregnancy has its discomforts and sometimes what is fine non-pregnant can be uncomfortable during pregnancy especially towards the end. Also communicate that you are here to support her and please let you know if there’s anything specific she wants. Remind her to not hesitate to ask to be served. This is her time to be catered to.
Help her get into her rhythm and work through each contraction.
Meet and match. Then guide her in the right direction. Meet her where she is at. If she needs guidance in breathing better or vocalizing in a more open way, match what she is doing. Breathe/vocalize with her. Then guide her.
Influence the environment to be calm and comfortable for her.
Pray over her and the baby. Pray together (when she’s up for talking).
Worship together. Help her build worship playlists to prepare for birth. You can play worship music during labor (if she’s up for music). You can also worship without music if she prefers the room to be quieter.
Simply love on her. Be by her side. Be a companion of support and comfort.
Pamper her. Make her feel special. A birthing woman should be pampered just as much as a bride.
Sometimes family members and friends struggle seeing their loved one in pain. It can be tempting to want her to have pain relief. If she does not want an epidural, don’t push her to get an epidural. Make peace with this pain having a purpose – to bring forth life. This is something her body is designed to do. Trust in that. If she feels like she failed at her goals, this will impact how she views her birth experience for the rest of her life. On the flip side, it’s okay if she genuinely changes her mind on her own. Support her in however the journey goes.
As labor intensifies, the support she needs will change. This is normal. If you have a doula with the birth team, the doula will guide you in support throughout the process. Remember your presence and emotional involvement is the greatest support. Love her through it.
Know that we never really know how a woman will feel during labor. Some want to isolate; others want to stick close to their comfort people. Some want to hug on you; others don’t want to be touched. Some are quiet; some are loud. All of these things are normal and okay. Don’t take it as rejection if a laboring woman gets to a point that she doesn’t want to be touched. Her body can get overwhelmed with stimulation as it comes closer to delivering.
Throughout pregnancy, discuss birth preparation. Try out the different coping techniques and comfort measures. Practice with her. Let her guide you in how support feels best to her.
What did your family and friends do to support you? Comment below.
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