To the labor companion

You can do a lot to help your partner during labor and birth.

  • Support her coping style.
  • Help her relax: hold her, massage her tense muscles, rub her feet, stroke her hair, hold her hand, tell her to look into your eyes and focus.
  • Time contractions and tell her how much time has passed ("15 seconds have passed...20...30...").
  • Breathe with her. Learn the breathing techniques so you can help her with them.
  • Praise her: "You're doing great." "I'm so proud of you!"
  • Reassure her and help her relax between contractions.
  • Bring her items that comfort her: ice chips, water, a cool washcloth, a warm blanket, more pillows, a clean gown.
  • Stay calm—that will help her relax.
  • Call the nurse or health care provider for her.
  • Be her advocate. Talk with her health care provider and the hospital staff about her wishes and concerns.
  • Keep yourself fed, rested and comfortable. Sit down now and then, eat, keep drinking water and take bathroom breaks.

Note: If you are holding her legs when she is pushing, be careful not to push her legs back too far. With certain medicines and her focus on pushing, she may not feel the "overstretch" of her legs. This overstretching can damage her muscles and joints and will be painful after she gives birth.

Taking charge

Labor is emotionally and physically challenging for both you and your partner. There may be a time when she hits an emotional low. She may feel like she cannot go on and wants to give up. She may be in despair and weeping. She may be so tense she cannot relax. She may be in pain. You may be tired and discouraged yourself. But, your head will be clearer.

Here are ways you can "take charge" and help her:

  • Be calm and encouraging.
  • Act firm and confident.
  • Talk loud enough that she can hear you and pay attention to your voice. Be kind and calm, not panicked and loud.
  • Put your face close to hers so she can focus on you.
  • Tell her to open her eyes and look at you.
  • Anchor her—gently and firmly hold her shoulders or head.
  • Talk her through the contraction:
    • "Angie, open your eyes. Look at me. Breathe with me. Inhale. Exhale. Good, that's the way! Stay with it. Breathe in your chest, in-2-3, out-2-3, just like we practiced. Stay with me. I'm right here. Let's do it together. (Breathe with her.) It's going away now. Good...good. Now just rest. You are working hard! You're doing it."
  • Make a plan. Suggest a new position or a new way of handling the next contraction.
    • "Let's try the next contraction on your side. I'll help you roll over. I want you to look at me when the contraction starts. We'll breathe together so it won't get ahead of us. OK? Good. You're doing so well. We're really moving now."
  • Repeat your instructions. Contractions and pain can make it hard to concentrate. If she doesn't respond, tell her again. Keep your voice kind and firm.
  • Don't give up on her. If she wants to give up, tell her you have faith in her. Agree with her that it's hard. Tell her that you are there to help.
    • "I know this is tough. You're tired and you hurt. Let's take one contraction at a time. Just get through the next one. I'm right here. Your nurse is right here. We're going to help you all we can."
  • Remind her of your baby. Help her remember that labor brings your baby.
  • Ask for help. Ask the nurse or health care provider to:
    • check the dilation of the cervix ("Look how far you've come!")
    • suggest a new position
    • suggest a medical intervention that might help
    • reassure you that this is normal

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, seventh edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/02/2015