Objective: To determine which nursing support behaviors new mothers rate as most helpful in assisting them to cope with labor.

Design: A retrospective study using quantitative and qualitative approaches, including a ranking of means and a content analysis.

Setting: The postpartum unit of a tertiary-care hospital in eastern Canada.

Participants: Eighty postpartum women, most Of whom were married, employed, and 20–33 years of age.

Interventions: Within 72 hours of their labor women rated 25 nursing support behaviors. Main outcome measures: The perceived degree of helpfulness of 25 nursing support behaviors.

Results: All 25 behaviors were perceived as helpful. The most helpful behaviors included making the woman feel cared about as an individual, giving praise, appearing calm and confident, assisting with breathing and relaxing, and treating the woman with respect. Behaviors in the emotional support category were the most helpful.

Conclusions: Nurses can assist women to cope with the stress of labor. They must use a high degree of interpersonal skills in the care of laboring women in addition to being technically competent.