Building Your Birth Support Team
As practice through the ages and evidence shows, support during the birth process can be greatly beneficial to both mothers and babies. It is not about having an experience. It is about healthier emotional and physical outcomes for mothers and subsequently for babies as well. Putting together a support team is not as simple as inviting a family member or friend along. There are many components to consider as this is the most intimate time to allow others to share in except for the conception of your baby.
Prior to putting together your Labor Support Team (LST):
You and your spouse/partner are generally the only persons who can speak on your and the baby’s behalf unless another individual has a medical power of attorney for the labor and postpartum time period. Learning how to be a self-advocate is an important piece of the support team puzzle. Answering very specific questions prior to looking at who ultimately will be with you at your birth will be helpful to you in addressing specific needs, goals, philosophy, and expectations.
- What education and self study are you doing during pregnancy?
- Do you feel confident and equipped to birth your baby?
- Are you confident and at ease with your provider?
- Are you comfortable with his or her requirements and practice style?
- Are you comfortable with the policies, requirements, and protocols of your birth location?
- Do you have special circumstances or health concerns?
- When you close your eyes who do you see being the most supportive of you and your choices?
- Are you a single mother or is your spouse/partner deployed?
- What type of help does your spouse/partner or your main support person need?
- How involved does your spouse/partner or main support person need?
- What type of physical support do you need (massage, positioning help, any chronic pain or health issues to contend with?)?
- What type of emotional support do you require (affirmations, encouragement, quiet and positive, no questions asked, reminders…)?
- What type of educational/informational support do you expect to need?
- Are you comfortable discussing needs and desires with provider?
- Do you feel confident in addressing the staff at a hospital or birth center?
- Do you have a birth plan?
- Planning a natural birth?
- Planning an epidural in your birth?
- Traveling a distance to your birth location?
- Are there any specific cultural barriers or needs that ought be addressed?
- What other considerations or needs might you have?
Now that you have answered the questions, it is likely a much more clear picture why being specific about your LST is so important. This is an opportunity to look at and personalize what is needed in labor. It is not for anyone else to decide what it will look like, who is going to be there, and who is not going to be there.
Putting together your LST
The birth of a baby is only less intimate than the act of making the baby. Inviting anyone into the area surrounding this event can affect the process positively or negatively. Privacy, comfort, safety, and honoring the birth of a baby are a must so choosing the person(s) to take the journey with you needs to be well thought out. Some candidates for a LST are on the below list.
- Mother/Father (other family members)
- Older Children
- Doula (skilled and trained labor support)
- Care Provider (OB, Midwife or Family Practice Doctor)
Many on the list are pretty obvious choice considerations. The best person(s) to have around you during labor and birth will aim to provide what you need physically, emotionally, and by way of information while supporting your decisions and desires without bringing in negativity, fear, bias against what you want, distrust for the process, anger, a sense of undermining, etc. Your support team can make or break the outcome of your labor and delivery simply by what he or she brings into your birth. Your birth is not about any one elses satisfaction, background, needs, wants or the like. This is your birth, your baby’s birth.
The one person on the list you may or may not have heard of is the labor doula. The labor doula was born out of this need. Essentially this is a woman of knowledge and skill in pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum (yes there are a few men in who are labor doulas as well) who comes alongside a pregnant woman (family) offering education, physical support and emotional support to both the mother and partner/husband/other support. A doula does not take away from a husband or partner during the process. Doulas are shown to decrease interventions, cesarean, epidural use, narcotics use, need for induction, and increase satisfaction, bonding, breastfeeding success, and more! For more information regarding labor doulas, click here http://prepforbirth.com/2009/08/09/what-is-a-labor-doula-what-does-she-or-he-do/.
From the Birthing Front
Here is a sampling from women who have birthed, are pregnant or attend women in birth who answered the question “Why is having a supportive birth team important?
“…because a woman in labor is in the most vulnerable state of her life. When I was in labor I needed someone holding my hand telling me I could do it… telling me all those incredibly intense sensations were, indeed, normal. I was vulnerable, and my support team protected me and supported me as I gave birth. “For me, feeling “safe” didn’t just mean feeling safe physically… it meant feeling emotionally safe to welcome the vulnerability that labor brings and thus to be able to let go” Lily B.
“Birth is one of the biggest events that define a woman’s life. When she is in labor her senses are heightened by the hormones going through her body. Her perception of those around her will make or break her birth experience. A trained experienced birth team knows how to keep the emotions of both professional and non professional people positive and empower the woman to birth not only her baby but a stronger more confident self into being.” Amber-joy T.
“A supportive birth team can mean the difference between a physically healthy birth and a birth that can take months to recover from. Regardless of the actual events at a woman’s birth (vaginal birth, cesarean, medicated, non-medicated, home, hosptial, birth center), a supportive birth team can also mean the difference between having a happy, rewarding, and empowering birth and a birth in which the birth is not owned by the mother emotionally. Mental health can be more important than physical health and more costly to treat down the road. Always take care of yourself emotionally.” Nora M.
“Birth is such a vulnerable and powerful experience. I remember that I had to tap into a side of myself that I had not yet known until birth. Every *vibe* from others around me affected my state of mind during the process. Without the complete support of my birth team, and husband, I would’ve when that point of surrender hit, given into the doubts and crumbled under the pressure; But becauseI did have a supportive team, I was empowered to press forward and experience the most amazing moment of my life uninhibited.” Julie W.
So now take a moment to think about who will offer you what you need and help you attain what you want in labor and delivery. Having continuous support no matter the type of birth you want is important because you and your baby matter. Your birth matters.