Three expectant moms lean into their partners. They all appear to be talking to a professional.
Support from partners, doulas and other expectant moms can be helpful during particularly challenging moments. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

The process of having a baby now is about the same as it was thousands of years ago, with the exception of a few major improvements.

Things like hand washing, for instance, which became more of a standard in the late 1800s, made a huge difference in lowering the rate of maternal death. This was a great step forward for women giving birth.

There is also a vast array of options available to today’s expectant moms, as compared to moms of yesteryear.

Of course, there’s also something we’ve lost over the years: The widespread support that women once had from other women.

The America Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has made recommendations that relate directly to improving the support that women have in labor.

The organization notes that every health care provider involved in the birth process “may want to develop programs and policies to integrate trained support personnel into the intrapartum care environment to provide continuous one-to-one emotional support to women undergoing labor.”

What that means is it’s more important than ever that moms-to-be get the help and support they need from people involved in every aspect of delivery, both at home and at the hospital.

Years ago, when I worked on the OB floor, I could be in the room with my patient. I would help by offering suggestions during her labor and I would breathe with her, or I’d even rub her back and feet. I also remember giving back rubs to moms in the evening before they went to sleep.

For nurses, things have changed.

Some of it has to do with changes to computer charting, which takes so much time, but also the fact that epidurals affect what nurses need to do for patient comfort. (Some hospitals have very high epidural rates.)

But things are again changing. More women are choosing to avoid an epidural in labor. This is requiring nurses to again learn how to help in labor.

How can women obtain this continuous support for labor?

It’s extremely helpful to have a supportive partner. Guys don’t always know what to do to help mom in labor, so I’d definitely recommend childbirth classes where an expectant mom can learn about her options and a dad-to-be can learn ways to help mom relax in labor.

Always remember to discuss dad’s options.

Years ago, moms in labor were supported by the women in their lives—and most of those women went through labor themselves.

I’m very glad we now encourage dads to be with mom.

But we still need to realize that some women might need the expertise of a doula, who is trained to provide support for labor and delivery. She’s not a nurse, but she can help you in labor.

Studies have shown that by having a doula with continuous support, patients are less likely to have a cesarean section. This is great, because the nation’s primary C-section rate is too high and we need to decrease it.

Some other proven benefits of a doula:
• Shorter labor period
• Less need for pain medication
• Fewer deliveries requiring forceps or vacuum extractor
• Higher satisfaction of labor
• Fewer C-sections for these patients
• More successful breastfeeding

If you’re pregnant, I’d highly encourage you to consider a doula.