Of course, I think everyone who wants a doula should have one. But there are a lot of people who don't necessarily feel like they want to hire a doula, or they may live in an area where doulas are scarce. If you find yourself about to have a baby, or if you are about to support someone, here are some nice, simple ideas of how to keep a laboring mom comfortable:
1. Keep the room dark. Lower the shades and dim the lights. If mom goes to the bathroom, keep the lights off in there, too, and just keep the door open.
2. Bring your own pillows from home. Your own pillow is warm and comfortable and smells familiar. It is where you do your most intense relaxing (sleeping), and it might make an unfamiliar birth place seem a little more like home. Encourage mom to hug or rest her head on her pillow during labor.
3. Use lavender, peppermint, or citrus scents in the room. Besides covering up the "hospital" smell, these scents can provide a sense of calming (lavender), quell nausea (peppermint), or be invigorating (citrus).
4. Provide firm counter-pressure on mom's back. The palm of your hand pressed very firmly on the base of mom's spine throughout a contraction can help take the edge off of contractions, especially in active labor as the baby moves down.
5. Between contractions, give mom lots of encouragement and soft, slow strokes on the arms and back. Rub her neck and shoulders. Encourage mom to relax her muscles between contractions.
6. Encourage mom to drink a sip or two of water after most contractions. Every hour or so, remind her to use the bathroom.
7. Encourage mom to try new laboring positions, if possible. Sitting on a birth ball, standing with her arms around partner's shoulders, leaning over the side of the bed, sitting or kneeling in a warm bath, and squatting while holding partner's hands or a birth bar are some great options for labor. Offer to walk with her. Stay close to her and help her find something that feels good.
8. Most importantly, stay calm. Speak quietly, listen intently, use gentle words. It can be hard to see someone you love be uncomfortable, and it can feel stressful, or that you aren't doing anything because you can't help her more. But what is the most important thing is that you are there, close to her during contractions, giving her your undivided attention, telling her how much you love her and what an amazing job she's doing. You can't take this experience away from her, and that's OK. She has everything she needs to birth her baby within herself. She just needs you nearby, creating a safe, calm, loving space for her.