Wellness & Education

Wellness & Education

With Women in Labor: Why and How Midwives Provide Labor Support

In times of stress and transformation, most people find the support of a trusted person to be a valuable tool. Challenges become manageable and fear can turn into determination if you are surrounded by people who believe in you and encourage you towards your goals. One time that this support is most valuable is when you are in labor, working towards the birth of your child. As experts in normal birth, a hallmark of care provided by midwives is honoring the therapeutic value of human presence. Midwives have both the technical knowledge and the passion and interest to support women in labor and assist them in achieving the birth they are hoping for.

Why and How Midwives Provide Labor SupportThe intuitive value of labor support has been supported by many scientific studies. Women who labor with continuous support from a caregiver are less likely to request pain medication, less likely to have a cesarean section, less likely to have a forceps or a vacuum delivery and report more satisfaction.* The kind of support that a medical or non-medical person can provide includes massage, physical support for different labor positions, warm or cool compresses, suggesting changes in position, walking with a laboring woman, providing hydration and snacks, and offering words of encouragement and support. Just being there with a laboring woman can be enough to provide her the comfort she needs. Midwives are trained to provide this support, and also are comfortable engaging family members and doulas to provide support to you. 

In addition to labor support, a midwife brings the capabilities of keeping the mother updated on the progress of her labor and her baby’s status, and using her knowledge of what has worked in other labors and births she has attended. As your healthcare provider, your midwife can also order interventions that you request, like IV hydration or pain medications. She is there to give you hands-on assistance and encouragement and to advise you on making safe and effective choices in every stage of your labor and birth.

The bond forged by working together and sharing the joy of your birth often becomes a lifelong one, with many women returning to their midwife for future pregnancies as well as gynecologic care. With their training in providing annual exams and treating common gynecologic ailments, midwives are a great choice for women across the lifespan.

Lauren MacKenzie, CNM, MSNLauren MacKenzie is a certified nurse-midwife and WHA's Director of Advance Practice Clinicians. She sees patients at the Gateway office of Women’s Healthcare Associates, LLC.

*To read more about the evidence surrounding labor support, visit Childbirth Connection, including the Cochrane Review on Effects of Continuous Labor Support.