10 Ways to Comfort a Woman Giving Birth

Supporting a woman in labor means doing and avoiding certain things.

Birthing centre
Science Photo Library - IAN HOOTON/Getty Images

Many of us feel helpless when it comes to comforting a laboring woman. Knowing a couple of right things to do and say is always helpful, as well as knowing a few tips on what not to do.

What Not to Do When You're Supporting a Laboring Woman

If you are the father of the baby, or the person who will be the laboring woman's support "staff" during the birth process, here's what to avoid:

  • Coming unprepared can cause a load of problems, as you try to cater to your own empty stomach as the laboring mom is finally ready to start pushing. Be sure to bring snacks, drinks, clothes, and other necessaries along, so that you need never leave the delivery room.
  • Coming uninformed can be just as bad. What are the stages of pregnancy? Does the laboring woman want anesthesia? What's the doctor's name? Is there a birthing plan? You job, as the support person, is to have all this information (along with phone numbers of important family and friends) at your fingertips.
  • Standing back when decisions need to be made can undermine the laboring mother's preferences. What does SHE want? How can you make it happen? You're her advocate while she's unable to take action -- so .. ┬átake action!
  • Getting impatient is simply not acceptable. Yes, labor and birth can take a long time, and that's just the way it goes. Popping out for a short break is one thing; taking a few hours to go to work because "the baby's not coming anytime soon" is a problem.
  • Getting queasy is not helpful. Birth is messy, and sometimes it involves instruments or even surgery. If you're the fainting kind, consider finding a replacement. Otherwise, just figure out how to be present -- even if it's a bit scary.

    How to Help a Laboring Woman

    Here are some ideas, feel free to expand them for your own use in labor and do what works for you!

    1. Massage her face to help release stress and relax her.
    2. Remind her to go to the bathroom every hour. A full bladder is not only uncomfortable but can stall labor.
    3. Try cool compresses on her neck and face. Even lightly washing her face can feel good when she's working so hard.
    1. Encourage her to drink fluids and eat to comfort if her care providers will allow it. Eating and drinking will help restore used energy for the marathon of labor.
    2. Help her change positions to encourage the progress of labor. Some positions will provide pain relief, others may feel more painful. Do what works for her.
    3. If her back is hurting do counter pressure with your hands on the small of her back (or wherever she says to do it) as hard as she likes. Doing this in the hands and knees position will also help with the pain. (See more on back labor.
    4. Be there for her. Even when she may say that she doesn't wish to be touched, being there for her is very important. Just stand near her so that she can feel your presence and verbally encourage her.
    5. Try the shower or tub. Water in labor is very good for pain relief of all sorts.
    6. Use a heat pad, rice sock or warm blanket to her lower back, limbs or perineum (at the end) to help her.
    7. Remind her of why she's doing this: The baby!

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