As a birth support person (partner/parent, family member, friend or doula), using the acronym S.U.P.P.O.R.T can be a great guide to fully support the birthing mother. S.U.P.P.O.R.T acronym is broken down as the following easy topics:
Praise & Encouragement
Out of Bed/Open Pelvis
Rest in between contractions-Relax/Soften during contractions
Touch & Massage
Photo credit Laura Robinson Photography
The birthing mother needs privacy, respect, and continuous support to best cope with her labor and maintain the balance of hormones to progress labor. Maintaining this balance will keep her labor effective and her discomfort manageable. The environment surrounding you during labor influences these hormones, as well as your mind’s ability to enter into the deep relaxation.
So in reflecting on your ideal environment/birthing space:
- What do you want to see? i.e. dim lighting, open/closed windows, visual encouragement, focal points, etc.
- What do you want to hear? i.e. quiet room, soothing/uplifting music, audio relaxation scripts, poems, etc.
- What do you want to smell? i.e. lavender, rose, lemon, peppermint, your favorite lotion, pillow, etc.
- What do you want to taste? i.e. flavored water, applesauce, date bars, honey sticks, broth, etc.
- What do you want to feel? i.e. massage/touch, warm tub/shower, loose clothing, hot/cold compress, etc.
The birthing mother is encouraged to stay well-hydrated for the duration of her labor as evidence supports those who took in more fluids had shorter labors by about 30 minutes, in comparison to those with mild dehydration could contribute to slightly longer labors. With so much fluid flowing through the the birthing mother means urinating every 45 minutes to an hour can help decrease the size of her bladder to make more room in the pelvis for the descending baby.
The birthing mother is encouraged to move into 2-3 positions within an hour. Even changing how the birthing mother moves is included in the number of positions changes, because it causes their pelvis to be more dynamic to invite baby to descend. So, while they are on the birth ball hula-hoop the hips into a clockwise direction through 20-30 min of contractions, and then counter the hula-hoop movement for another 20-30min.
The big position changes and small movements all help the birthing mother find her rhythm and ritual to achieve effective relaxation to continue to work with her labor process.
Remind the birthing mother often how amazing she is, how powerful and strong she is. Partners, repeat your love for her. Tell her you are so proud of the hard work she is doing and thank her for taking this on for your family. Remind her she has everything she needs right there, right now and that she is safe and you will stay by her side.
Out of Bed/Open Pelvis:
Research suggests laboring and giving birth in an upright position can have several benefits: gravity can help bring baby down & out, less risk of compressing the mother's aorta so better oxygen supply to the baby, it will help the uterus contract more strongly and efficiently, AND helps the baby get in a better position to pass through the pelvis.
So even if continuous monitoring is needed for medical reasons, the birthing mother can still be upright by asking for wireless monitors or if needed to stay in one area she can consider sitting on the birth ball with more freedom to move.
If choosing or needing to spend time in bed, use a peanut ball to place between the birther’s knees to keep the pelvis open to encourage baby’s descent.
Rest between/Relax during contractions:
In between contractions, the birthing mother and her partner should rest to reserve energy. Evidence supports in a 12-hour labor, only 2 of those hours are actually spent contracting, while the remaining time is the body resting. If the body is resting, the birthing mother along with her partner should rest too. Think pillows, soft places to lie into, blankets, quiet room, cushioned knees, leaning over a birth ball, leaning into partner, etc.
Relaxing during the contractions by taking a deep cleansing breath and soften the jaw, mouth and then your pelvic floor to communicate directly to the cervix and vagina to open, allowing a more effective descent for baby. This is the basics of the Spincter Law.
Touch & Massage:
Using the power of touch and massage to reduce stress and anxiety during labor helps heighten the production of oxytocin and thus more endorphins to aid the birthing mother in a more comfortable labor experience.
Touch during and in between contractions in early labor promotes rest as the body learns how to labor during this phase. As the birther progresses in her labor journey, she tends to prefer massage as a form of full relaxation in between contractions. She may ask for counterpressure and/or massage on her lower back, bottom, hips, and/or thighs during contractions. Follow her lead and if she says no to touch, respect her boundaries and let her know you are willing to touch/massage again if her needs change. Using heat along with your touch can also be comforting.