Childbirth Education Classes and Continuous Support During Labor

quick links
  Contact List for Doulas and Labor
  and Postpartum Support

Continuous Labor Support for
  Women During Childbirth

Once you've selected a health care provider and birth location, it's time to think about childbirth education classes (covered in greater detail in The Second Trimester), and to decide whether you want continuous support during labor.

Childbirth Education

Although it may be too early to enroll in a series of classes, some instructors offer an early pregnancy class that covers such topics as healthy eating, exercise, bodily changes, fetal growth and development, and comfort measures during pregnancy. If you are planning on having your other children attend the birth of their baby brother or sister, you may want to look for sibling preparation classes as well. Ask your health care provider, birth setting, or friends who have had babies and attended childbirth education classes for referrals.

Continuous Support During Labor

Throughout history, women have supported one another in labor. As the setting for birth in the U.S. shifted from home to hospital in the last century this type of care was lost for many years. Fortunately, it's making a comeback as more and more women learn about its benefits. Women and their partners can have an invited friend, family member, or doula provide continuous physical and emotional support during labor.

The best research shows that continuous labor support offers very impressive benefits. In comparison with women who did not have this type of care, those who received labor support from a woman who came into the birth setting solely for this purpose were less likely to give birth by cesarean section, less likely to give birth with vacuum extraction or forceps, less likely to use pain medications, and less likely to be dissatisfied with their birth experience. Labor support is an important tool to improve your chances for a safe and satisfying childbirth experience.


The word doula ("DOO-lah") is a Greek word meaning "woman who serves". Today, doulas are trained professionals who "mother the mother". During labor, doulas provide continuous support that includes physical comfort measures, emotional reassurance, and information and suggestions to improve progress or ease discomfort. A doula can help you understand what your health care providers are saying and can help make your needs clear to hospital staff or other birth attendants. She is also a resource and guide for your partner.

Postpartum doulas can be an important resource in the first few weeks after birth. They are trained and experienced in providing information, guidance, and support about self-care, newborn care, breastfeeding, and other issues especially important during the first six weeks after your baby is born. They can also help with chores at home like meals, laundry, and looking after other children. Here is our list of recommended organizations for labor and postpartum support and how to locate a doula in your area. If you are considering working with a doula, here are some tips and tools for deciding on the right doula for you.

*Most insurance plans do not cover doulas

Continue to "The First Trimester" journey to parenthood

© 2016 Childbirth Connection. All rights reserved.

Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy and policy. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
Most recent page update: 9/9/2010