This is the second post in our Ask the Doulas series.We have gathered a variety of doulas to share wisdom gained from their experience working with hundreds of families.

Why is verbal support important when supporting someone in labor?

Verbal support is a technique that can be done in a types of situations. You aren’t limited to where your partner is laboring, how they are laboring or what is going on in the moment. Birth can be a long and challenging event for most people and having a partner to support with gentle and positive words can make such a big difference.

Let’s hear from the doulas

We posed the following question to our experienced panel of doulas:

“What is your best tip for providing verbal support during labor and birth?”

Know what types of statements encourage your partner and what will annoy her. Many women don’t appreciate “just relax”. Practice affirmations ahead of time and even write your favorites on notecards or in a phone note! Things like “your breathing is so calm”, “you handled that so well”, “I’m so proud of you” and more go a long ways! – Melissa Schultz

During active labour, try and read non-verbal cues as best as you can. The birthing person may need to focus solely on each contraction... answering extra questions on top of all the ones the care providers may need to ask can be overwhelming. As for what to say, validate the birthing person. Take your cues from them. If they're coping really well, say so! If they're not coping well, acknowledge that it is really hard but they're doing it.Prenatally, check out some birth affirmations and see if any really "speak" to them and the vibe they're going for in labour. Try to avoid side-conversations with others in the room once in the "active labour" stage. – Helen Scammell

Be flexible and responsive to the mother's need for quiet time, playful talk, encouragement. Be aware that the volume of your voice can affect her in different ways at different stages of labor. – Daphne Reynolds

Do not expect to hold a conversation during a contraction. – Denise Bolds

Don’t forget to do it! A lot of partners get so caught up in the physical support that they forget to give verbal support. Hearing that you think she is strong and beautiful and that you are proud of her is SO important! She needs to know that you are by her side not just physically but emotionally too. – Melissa Colatosi

If you don't know what to say, "I love you" is a great place to start. You'll find that other encouraging phrases come after that. – Rebekah Gilley

Words of affirmation may feel insufficient, but they mean everything to the laboring person! If they feel you think they're doing well, they will believe it! – Katie Rohs

Use gentle encouragement. – Sheri Walker

I encourage partners to really encourage mom, especially when they are facing something tough. I am amazed at how partners just know what to say and the love that they provide mom. If mom feels she has to make a decision that was not part of her birth plan, this is definitely a time to remind her how powerful and amazing she is. – Steffanie Thomas

Be genuine with your words. It's ok if it feels a little awkward at first to say out loud how amazing your partner is doing, but lean into it. Your loved one will be able to tell when your verbal support is from the heart. – Brigid Vance

Be positive and encouraging. Always. – Jenn Smith

Summary

Experienced doulas tend to agree that gentle positive words of encouragement can be an important method of supporting someone in labor. For more information, check out our post on what to say to your partner in labor.