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National Childbirth Survey

2. Some labor coaches could use more coaching.

Almost all of the women (99 percent to be exact) received support during labor, with most moms choosing their husbands or partners to coach them through delivery. Nurses assisted 83 percent; doctors, 53 percent; family members or friends, 50 percent; and midwives, 11 percent. Doulas accounted for only 5 percent. Some lucky women received support from several sources (for example, from a husband, a friend, and a caring nurse).

When it came time for women to rate the quality of support they had received, doulas came out on top and husbands fell to the middle of the pack. Why the flip-flop? Most dads simply have never witnessed something this intense, nor have they undergone much training to help them know what to do or say. Even second-time dads may not be prepared, since each labor and delivery is unique. Doulas, on the other hand, are trained labor coaches with delivery-room experience.

While it would be fantastic if we could all have doulas, the truth is not all of us can afford them. So how can we help our nonprofessional labor coaches to be even better? Attending childbirth education classes (for both new and experienced dads and partners) is a great start. In addition, sitting in on more than a few checkups will keep him in the loop as will reading all of those baby books that are on your nightstand. That said, we're thrilled to point out that most husbands did a wonderful job, with an amazing 59 percent of moms rating them as "excellent" coaches.

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