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To the labor companion

To the labor companion

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

  • Support your partner's coping style.
  • Help your partner relax: hold them, massage their tense muscles, rub their feet, stroke their hair, hold their hand, tell your partner to look into your eyes and focus.
  • Time contractions and tell your partner how much time has passed ("15 seconds have passed...20...30...").
  • Breathe with your partner. Learn the breathing techniques so you can help your partner with them.
  • Praise your partner: "You're doing great." "I'm so proud of you!"
  • Reassure your partner and help them relax between contractions.
  • Bring your partner items that provide comfort: ice chips, water, a cool washcloth, a warm blanket, more pillows, a clean gown.
  • Stay calm — that will help your partner relax.
  • Call the nurse or health care provider for your partner.
  • Be your partner's advocate. Talk with their health care provider and the hospital staff about their 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 your partner's legs when they are pushing, be careful not to push their legs back too far. With certain medicines and their focus on pushing, your partner may not feel the "overstretch" of their legs. This overstretching can damage their muscles and joints and will be painful after they give birth.

Taking charge

Labor is emotionally and physically challenging for both you and your partner. There may be a time when your partner hits an emotional low. They may feel like they cannot go on and want to give up. Your partner may be in despair and weeping. They may be so tense your partner cannot relax. Your partner 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 your partner:

  • Be calm and encouraging.
  • Act firm and confident.
  • Talk loud enough that your partner can hear you and pay attention to your voice. Be kind and calm, not panicked and loud.
  • Put your face close to your partner's face so they can focus on you.
  • Tell your partner to open their eyes and look at you.
  • Anchor your partner — gently and firmly hold their shoulders or head.
  • Talk your partner 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 your partner.) 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 your partner doesn't respond, tell them again. Keep your voice kind and firm.
  • Don't give up on your partner. If they want to give up, tell them you have faith in them. Agree with your partner that it's hard. Tell them 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 your partner of your baby. Help them 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 Patient Education, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, eighth edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/06/2021