Partner Support for Labor and Birth:
by Renee Mandala, M.D., CD (DONA)

My husband is really scared about helping my in labor and delivery. Any suggestions?

It is only recently in the United States that a laboring woman's partner has been included in the sacred event of the birth of their child. Many partners have never even witnessed a birth, let alone feel competent to understand the physiology, psychology and medical technology to support their loved one in labor. Many partners know very little about birth and have trouble even imagining their role in labor. Your partner is not alone! There are a number of things you can do to help him or her feel more prepared, confident and successful as a support for you in labor.

First, get a copy and read thoroughly Penny Simkin’s book "The Birth Partner." It is by far the best and most comprehensive resource for anyone who will assist a birthing woman in labor.

Next, both you and your partner should attend childbirth classes. Be aware: not all classes are alike! To evaluate a class’ appropriateness for you, ask:
  • What are you hoping to learn from the class? Are you looking for medical information (most likely found in a hospital based class where you will be informed of the physical and medical aspects of labor) or support for your natural birth choices (often found from independent instructors) or support for the emotional/psychological aspects of birthing (often found from independent instructors, such as Birthing From Within)?
  • What is your birth philosophy? Clarify how you think and feel about birth. Is it a merely a medical procedure to you, a chance to embrace your natural abilities, an opportunity for empowerment and growth? Talk to other mothers who are like-minded and find an instructor who is aligned with you. Some major types of childbirth education philosophies include Lamaze, Bradley, Birthing From Within, and ICEA.

Another invaluable reference is Henci Goer’s, "A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth." An educated birthing couple is an empowered one. Learning a lot IN ADVANCE of your estimated due date will help you make informed choices about how, where and with whom you give birth and help you make more informed decisions during your labor itself.

Additionally, the use of a professional labor support person (doula) is very helpful during this vulnerable and important time in your lives. A doula is trained and experienced in the emotional, psychological and physiological process of birth. She is with you and your partner throughout your birth experience. Although you may think a doula is hired just to support the laboring woman, many partners feel great relief with the presence of a birth doula. Your partner no longer needs to become an expert in childbirth and is freed up to be emotionally present with you and with his or her own experience of becoming a parent.

The doula will also support your partner during labor and assist him/her to be involved with the birth. A doula recognizes the importance of your baby's birth day as an opportunity to strengthen the foundation of your relationship, and this will carry you forward together as parents. See for a list of questions to ask when interviewing a doula and referrals. See for more information on birth and postpartum doulas and childbirth preparation classes in the Los Angeles area.

Renee Christine Mandala, M.A. CD (DONA) is a Certified Birth and Postpartum doula. She holds a Master's Degree in Spiritual Psychology with an emphasis in Consciousness, Health & Healing. Renee provides heart-centered care through the transformational journey of birth and early parenthood. She is currently undergoing cerification with the UCLA Lactation Educator Program.