A birth companion is someone who the mother in labor trusts
Mothers who have a birth with companions are likely to have easier, less stressful births and may have fewer complications. If you have been asked to accompany a mother during her labor, you can help her to have a healthy and happy birth experience with better communication by following these tips.
During the early stages of labor:
- Ask the mother and healthcare worker where you should sit or stand.
- Always try to be with the mother and help her to pass the time. Talk to her about positive things that may comfort her.
- Encourage the mother to bathe or wash her genitals at the onset of labor.
- Encourage the mother with kind, positive words and try to keep your voice calm when speaking to her. Don’t be upset, if she does not want to talk to you or if she seems rude or angry. Women in labor are in extreme pain and sometimes, are afraid. They may not react in their usual manner. Therefore, speak softly, praise her, and tell her that she is doing great.
- Encourage her to move around freely, walk slowly in between contractions, and change the position if she wants to. Walking and shifting into different positions during labor may help her to relieve pain and speed up the labor.
- Do not scold or shout at her. Let her rock, moan, or squeeze a pillow if that helps her.
- Ask her whether she needs a shoulder massage. Rubbing the mother’s back or massaging her shoulder during labor may help the mother to relieve her pain.
- Encourage the mother to sip fluids (juice, coconut water, or water) between contractions because mothers tend to lose energy and become dehydrated.
- Encourage the mother to keep breathing; it is better for both her and her baby. Help the mother to relax with deep, slow breathing. Keeping her breathing regular can help the mother to stay calm and help her to control pain during contractions. However, it may be hard for her to breathe regularly. Therefore, you must breathe with the mother and help her keep count of her breaths and tell her to
- Breathe in through her nose while you slowly count to three and stop.
- Breathe out through her mouth while you count to four.
- Make a sound on the out-breath, which she may find helpful.
- Avoid giving her orders. You can make suggestions that may help her but respect her choices and wishes if she does not want to follow your suggestions.
- Be aware of the mother’s right and speak up about her needs during labor, enough privacy, need for pain relievers, the behavior of staff, or some unnecessary procedures, such as shaving private parts and enema
- Do not interfere with hospital staff work unless requested to assist.
Who can be a birth companion?
A birth companion is someone who the mother in labor trusts and who
- Helps her to prepare for the baby’s birth.
- Will be with her during childbirth.
- Supports her.
- Comforts her.
- Helps her to be calm.
- Speak up for her rights, when she cannot.
A birth companion can be
- Mother’s partner/spouse/husband.
- Father of the baby.
- A family member or relative.
- Doula (nonmedical trained personnel who support the woman during labor).
How can you help the mother after birth?
Ways to help:
- Encourage the mother to keep the baby on her chest and maintain skin to skin contact immediately after childbirth to help bonding and breastfeeding.
- Offer drinks and food to the mother as she is likely to be exhausted and dehydrated following labor.
- Ask the mother whether she needs help to go to the washroom.
- Encourage the mother to breastfeed positively. The milk for the first 2-3 days after childbirth is greyish and watery (known as, colostrum). It is useful for the baby to fight against infections.
How can you help if things do not go as planned?
If the mother needs a cesarean delivery
- Encourage her and praise her as much as possible when she is feeling disappointed.
- Talk about her feelings and anxieties.
- Ask her whether she wants you to be with her during the operation if it is allowed.
If the baby dies (stillbirth), then
- Help the mother to deal with this very difficult situation by supporting her emotionally.
- Suggest the mother spend some time with the baby in private.
- Help the mother find the doctor to answer her questions about medical conditions.
- Help her to call her close relatives like a partner or mother to support her in their time of grief.