Labor Comfort Principles

By: Gina Conley, CD(DONA), B.S. Exercise Science

How can your birth partner provide better comfort during labor?  Unless you plan to have a scheduled cesarean, you will most likely feel contractions during labor.  We encourage you to share our labor comfort principles with your birth partner so that you can both prepare to find comfort during your upcoming birth experience.

1)     Support & Comfort During Contractions

Support:  Is the mother supported in the position which she chose to labor?  Take a look at major joints, such as the knees, hips, and shoulders to determine if they are supported.  For instance, if she is kneeling on the floor certain things should be considered. Is there a cushion under her knees to provide support to those joints? Is there something for her to lean on so that she is supported in her upper body?

Take a quick scan of the laboring mother to see where you could provide more support in each position.  A few helpful tools to assist include birthing or stability balls, peanut balls, pillows, your arms/body as a birth partner, and the labor bed or soft surfaces.

Comfort: Comfort measures might include: counter pressure techniques like the double hip squeeze or rebozo scarf hip squeeze; a TENS unit; hydrotherapy if a tub or shower is available; aromatherapy through familiar and comforting scents; or simply holding her and speaking words of affection and affirmation (I’m so proud of you…You’re amazing…I love you).

Your comfort during contractions should help the birthing mother to cope with the pain of the contraction, and may not be the same every, single contraction.  Some methods will only work for about 30-45 minutes before you need to adjust the comfort measure.

2)     Rest & Comfort In Between Contractions

Rest: In between contractions, the birthing mother needs to rest.  How can you facilitate rest?  Typically, helping her into a seated, all-fours, or lying down position will help her to rest.  If she is laboring in a standing up or kneeling position then she may need help to return to a seated position in between contractions.  Her time to rest is limited and so is her energy!  Conserve it as much as possible by physically helping her up and down. 

Options could include moving a stability ball or rocking chair behind her, then helping her sit down on it.  Take a scan around your home, birthing space, or hospital room to see what tools you have available that could be used to rest. Examples are but not limited to chairs, the ball, the bed, or the tub.  Make a mental list and pull from that list as the opportunity arises. 

Comfort:  The time in-between contractions is when the more massage type comfort techniques should be used. Prioritize this time as an opportunity to help her relax by offering massages, drinking water, a small snack, juice, or something to help give her some energy.  Remember to reassure her that she is doing an amazing job!  Labor is no joke!


We cover these principles and dive more in depth into how your birth partner can support you during labor with or without a doula in our childbirth education courses.  Upcoming classes are already halfway full!  Next dates are Sunday, Sept 22 and Oct 20 from 12-4pm.



Gina Conley