Labor Support: What You Need to Know
What is labor support?
Why is support in labor important to consider?
Would I still benefit from having a labor support companion if I think I will want an epidural or other pain medication?
Who might provide me with supportive care during labor and birth?
Throughout the ages, in nearly all societies for which we have records, women have been helped and comforted in labor by other women. These women stayed throughout labor providing physical comfort, emotional reassurance, and information. Today, labor support professionals called doulas (DOO-lah; Greek for "woman who serves") are trained to provide the comfort and care women need during labor.
Research shows that the availability of support in labor can affect your chances of having a cesarean, vacuum extraction, or forceps delivery; the likelihood that you will need pain medications; and your baby's condition at birth. Labor support can help you avoid or reduce risks associated with these interventions.
Research also shows that having good support can affect how you feel about your birth, and that memories of childbirth experiences often stay with women throughout their lives. (For more details about labor support's remarkable benefits - and lack of any known risks - follow through this section to the Best Evidence: Labor Support page.)
Would I still benefit from having a labor support companion if I think I will want an epidural or other pain medication?Women who plan to use pain medications could also appreciate having a labor support companion for many reasons:
The Options: Labor Support page reviews the pros and cons of each type of labor support companion.
Most recent page update: 3/12/2013
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Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality and value of maternity care through consumer engagement and health system transformation. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
News and Features
Listening to MothersSM III is the third national survey exploring women’s experiences in pregnancy and childbirth. Commissioned by Childbirth Connection, conducted by Harris Interactive, and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the survey polled 2,400 women who gave birth in U.S. hospitals from 2011 to 2012. Results show that medically intensive experiences are typical, and evidence-based practices are underutilized. Childbearing women need better support and knowledge to navigate their maternity care.
Access the full report and supplementary materials
New Report: Maternity Care and Liability
Go to report and supporting materials
New Report: The Cost of Having a Baby in the United States
Go to report and supporting materials
New Cesarean Resources:
Go to Best Evidence Report
Go to web pages and booklet for women
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