Giving birth is a labor of love—with extra emphasis on the hard work behind the word labor. It’s a time where anything goes, the best laid plans can be instantly reversed, and no one minds if a few swear words slip out now and then. The end result of a new baby in arms isn’t the only showcase of love, however. Oftentimes, the love shown between the partners is just as tear-jerking as the birth of the baby.
After the birth of our second child, two things continually stood out when discussing my labor with others. First, the intensity (and pain) of going from 3cm to fully dilated in less than a half hour. Second, the unwavering support that my husband provided which helped me focus and gave me strength to continue when I thought I couldn’t take anymore.
We hadn’t planned for an unmedicated birth, and hospitals make my husband feel extremely uneasy. So I remember being in awe of how calm and composed he was. I was also impressed that he was able to use a variety of supportive techniques to help me through contractions and delivery. He later admitted that he was very nervous, anxious, and had no idea what to do so he did the only thing he could—he just loved me and tried to support me however possible.
This got me thinking about “labor love languages.” How can partners create a positive birth environment by bringing a little love into things? Here are some ways each partner can show love to the other during labor.
Benefits of Acts of Love in Labor & Delivery
In a BabyCenter survey of over 1,000 moms, 93% had their partners with them in the delivery room. It is now not only common, but is the norm. Non-pregnant partners are no longer silent observers, but key participants and supporters in the labor and delivery process. Surprisingly, only 12% of women said they got mad or yelled at their partners during labor—though based on experience it’s likely that many more probably wanted to (or aren’t aware that they did) at some point!
Being present and showing love are both easy ways to support a birthing mama. But they are also proven to help lead to a better birth all around.
Love Can Literally Speed Up Labor
There are reasons people like to suggest sex as a means to jumpstart labor. Acts of love can play the same role once contractions get going as well.
Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone released in intimate situations, but it also plays an important role in the progression of labor as it strengthens contractions which help to move the baby down the birth canal. Physical touch, kissing, massage, and other intimate actions can help release oxytocin, which is particularly helpful if labor slows or stalls.
The Act of Showing Up: Being Present and Prepared
Studies have shown that women with “trained partners”—in this case, husbands who attended a set of birth education classes—experienced significantly decreased anxiety during labor and delivery than both women who gave birth without any accompaniment and those with a doula but without a trained partner.
The simple action of being moderately prepared and present was enough to make a major difference in helping women both emotionally and physically while giving birth. Additionally, being prepared means you know what not to do during labor as well!
How to Show Love During Labor (from Both Perspectives)
Though every birth experience is unique, there are many ways that partners can show love (i.e. support) during labor. As someone who has labored twice and who regularly discusses birth with other moms, these are a few ways to show love that I personally think a mom in labor might appreciate (feel free to show these to your partner):
- Hold and physically support her when it seems too much for her to bear (counter pressure works wonders).
- Use humor when possible to lighten up the mood or distract her from the pain. This is helpful at the beginning of labor, but might not be as helpful or appreciated during transition.
- Tell her to focus on your face, and to match your breathing. There is comfort and power in synchronization and the connection you will feel is memorable even in the hard transition period.
- Use affirmations, especially when she sounds defeated. If you hear “I can’t do this” tell her “yes you can, you are right now.” Tell her she is strong. Tell her she is doing a great job. Help her discover her inner strength.
- Dance together! Get the baby moving, pass the time, and connect through physical touch. Even if you normally hate dancing, remember this is about what she needs, so put your ego aside.
- Use physical touch. Stroke her hair, give her a massage, and maintain contact to help keep her grounded. If touch is an aversion, give her space when asked and remind her that you are there when she wants you.
- Avoid outside distractions. Try to stay off your phone (definitely put it down when a contraction hits) and respect her requests (such as the TV off or lights dimmed). Give her warning when a contraction is starting (if hooked up to a monitor) and help her through it.
- Take pictures during labor to document this incredible time in both of your lives.
Though moms might be the center of attention—at least until the baby arrives— there are a few easy ways to express love to our partners too during what is often a grueling and overwhelming experience unlike any other. Even the smallest acts of love can build up your partner and help them overcome anxiety or nervousness. All this can lead to a calmer and more supportive environment for your birth. It’s a win-win situation!
Here are a few simple things to try (without having to take on too much during actual labor):
Before Going into Labor
Help them prepare/pack.
An easy way to show love during labor is to consider their needs ahead of time. Bring or suggest items that may comfort them during what can be a long or difficult ordeal, as well as subsequent days in the hospital. Things such as spare change for vending machine if they need a break (which yes, they might actually need one too and the nurses are happy to step in for them), snacks to keep them energized, or surprise new parent gifts are easy to pack in your hospital bag and can be retrieved when needed.
Discuss and respect their fears or concerns about labor.
Though you may be doing most of the work, it is a team effort. Tour the hospital or birthing center together. Discuss areas of concern when they arise. And be prepared to consider alternatives if they are clearly not comfortable.
Hospitals have always made my husband feel uneasy. Though we were able to work through that prior to having our first child (a tour helped immensely), the one thing he drew the line at was being in the room during the epidural process. He wasn’t against getting one (rather, he was fully supportive of it). But he shared how he felt the sight of the needle—which is ridiculously long—would likely make him pass out.
At first, I was slightly annoyed. After all, it wasn’t like the needle was going into HIS back! But our nurse said it was actually fairly common and that it was better to have him step out briefly if at all uneasy. They didn’t want to have to be tending to two patients when all was said and done!
Discussing fear or anxiety triggers ahead of time will help everything run more smoothly. It will also allow you to make arrangements for situations that might arise. The less you have to stress about the day of, the better for you both.
During Labor and After Delivery
Positive affirmations can be shared both ways. Let them know how helpful their breathing reminders are. Or why you appreciate the steps they are taking to help you. This will allow partners to feel more confident in their approach and further support you.
Other phrases you can say include:
- “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
- “I can’t wait to see you holding our new baby.”
- “Thanks for getting me through that rough one.”
Or you can also try a little humor like, “Those scrubs really bring out your eyes!” Sharing your appreciation for your partner’s support with visitors is also another way to keep the love going post delivery.
My husband didn’t realize how much he had helped me until I spoke it out loud. It felt good to see the pride in his eyes knowing he was truly helpful (as opposed to just trying to not get in the way).
Hollywood might portray birth as a loud and chaotic event. But the truth is that a calm and loving atmosphere is more beneficial for everyone in the room, and makes for a supportive birth environment. Partners actively showing love to each other during labor will get your new little family started on the most positive and loving foot possible!