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Tips for Partners and Companions

Adapted from Birthing From Within, Pam England


The further along in labor a woman is, the more difficult it becomes for her to ask or answer a question, make decisions, or even respond with a simple “yes” or “no.” This is a positive sign that her logical, rational brain has slowed, and her intuitive, unconscious brain takes over. This shift from left to right brain facilitates the surrender required in active labor. Without that shift, wherein mind and ego melt into the background, most women could not stand the intensity of active labor.

Speak softly or not at all, do not try to reconnect with her through talking. Respectful silence from those in attendance is especially important during hard contractions, which require intense concentration. Unless you are talking her through the contraction, don’t talk to her, or to others (whispering is especially aggravating to some laboring women).

Try to anticipate her unspoken needs - fluids, ice, silence, a shift in energy, a wet cloth, a hand held. Avoid complex questions, even choices such as “do you want apple juice or ice chips?” Pick one and offer it.

Notice if what you are saying- “breathe” or “you’re doing great” - is helping her or not. She may need simply silent confidence that she is doing fine. Being active and strong is part of coping with the pain of labor. It’s okay for her to rock, moan, or squeeze a pillow if that helps. Neither of you should expect her to be relaxing peacefully and completely. Let her discover her own unique rhythm in labor.

Don’t expect or wait for your needs to be noticed. The doula and birth companions are “invisible.” Even during a long labor, no one is likely to offer you a break so you can eat, take a nap or use the bathroom. Bring your own food, refresh yourself when needed, as long as the laboring woman as someone with her. Don’t feel guilty about eating or taking a break, just don’t eat in the labor room.

Don’t take reactions personally. She is tired. Labor can be tedious and long; only at the end, will she be rewarded more than she can imagine and it will all make sense.

You, and everyone in attendance, should respectfully encourage this mysterious phenomenon. It helps if you are fluent in the language of Laborland. Speak softly, slowly, using simple phrases to avoid disturbing her labor-trance.

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