Do I need support at the birth?

Physiologically a woman needs no “support” to give birth – her body is perfectly designed to birth her baby unassisted. However, she can greatly benefit from emotional and practical support, especially when she has chosen to give birth away from familiar surroundings. Key factors, which will help her relax and let go, are that she feels safe, and unobserved, does not feel judged and has focused, continuous care.

Some women benefit from physical support such as massage or being held, while others may not want to be touched at all. Some mothers gain tremendous encouragement from verbal support such as being told how well she is doing or focused on counting through each contraction, while others will find that distracting.

Her needs will also vary according to the different stages of labour. Often simply having someone present in the room is enough. However, all women benefit from not having to make decisions or respond to questions, from minimal distractions and from being in an environment where she feels safe and at ease.

A good birth partner does not seek to “coach” or tell her what to do, but is someone who quietly observes and picks up on her needs and emotions, giving her verbal encouragement as well as physical and mental support to help her relax and allow her body to birth her baby.

Many couples who realise that it is OK for the father not be the sole supporter, and even not to be at the birth at all, are turning to professional birth supporters or Doulas.

Maggie Howell

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