Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Being a birth support partner

5-minute read

What is a birth support partner?

Supporting a woman when she's giving birth is a big responsibility and an honour. It can be hugely rewarding for the support person but also exhausting, particularly if the labour lasts for many hours through the night, or even for days.

A birth support partner isn’t always the father of the baby. They might be:

  • a same-sex partner and co-parent
  • the woman’s parent
  • a close friend
  • a sibling or other relative
  • a paid professional, such as a doula

There are many reasons why a father may not be present at the birth of his baby. He might be away serving with the armed forces; not be in a relationship with the baby’s mother; be too ill to attend; or the parents might have agreed it would not be a good idea for him to be there.

Being a birth partner involves providing intense physical and mental support to the mother, and if you’re that person, you’ll need to be prepared to do whatever it takes. You will be her advocate so you may need to take charge and convey her wishes to the maternity team.

If you think you can’t physically or mentally support the woman during this time, discuss it with her beforehand. She may then choose another support person. It might be possible for you to support her for just part of the labour, or she may want more than one support person.

What can I expect as a birth support partner?

In preparation for the birth, you might need to attend antenatal classes and discuss the birth plan.

Every birth can be different and things don’t always go according to plan, so be prepared to be flexible. If you need to speak up on behalf of your partner, you will have your own rights and responsibilities as a support person so discuss these in advance with your midwife or doctor.

How can I support my partner?

Before the birth:

  • Help her around the house if she is tired, sick or unwell.
  • Go to doctor and midwife appointments with her.
  • Go to antenatal classes with her.
  • Discuss her birth plan, including what to do if things don’t go to plan.

During labour and birth:

  • Communicate with the midwife or doctor about when to come to hospital or the birthing centre.
  • Once there, fully focus on your partner, staying calm and giving her lots of positive encouragement.
  • Bring her ice, water and snacks if she wants them.
  • Walk and move with her.
  • Help her into the shower or birth pool.
  • Help her move into birth positions she chooses and support her weight if she needs it.
  • Help her with her breathing and other coping methods.
  • Communicate her wishes to the maternity team, and their advice back to her. Support her to make decisions if things don’t go to plan and speak up for her if she can’t do this herself.
  • Massage her, hold her hand and wipe her face if she wishes.
  • Let her family know how things are going if she wishes.

What can I expect in the birthing suite?

  • Your partner’s maternity team may be a midwife or doctor or both, and they will look after her during labour and birth. If she has an epidural, an anaesthetist will give this to her.
  • Your partner will go through stages of labour as her cervix gets wider and the baby moves down her pelvis, preparing to come out. Your partner’s contractions will get closer together, before she starts feeling the urge to push as the baby moves into her vagina. She will probably be in pain so be prepared for that and stay focused on helping her.
  • There may be a bed, chairs, stools, mats, cushions, a fitness ball, shower or birthing pool to help your partner with her labour positions.
  • Your partner may need assistance giving birth, so the maternity team may need to use forceps or a vacuum or give your partner an episiotomy to help the baby come out.
  • Your partner may need to have a caesarean, which means you would go to an operating theatre with her.

How can I care for myself?

Being a birth support partner can be exhausting so look after yourself as well as her, including taking rest breaks when it works for your partner or if there is another support person there.

Bring snacks and drinks for yourself, comfortable walking shoes, a clean shirt and toothbrush, and swimwear if you plan to go into a birthing pool or shower.

Where can I go for more advice?

To find out more about being a birth support partner:

  • Ask your doctor, midwife, or doula, if you have one.
  • Learn more about the best positions for labour and birth.
  • Attend antenatal classes with your partner.
  • Tour the birth facility beforehand and ask questions.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

Choosing a birth support partner

A birth support partner can offer many benefits to you and your baby. Learn here how to choose a partner who’ll support you before, during and after the birth.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Birth and beyond - Ngala

Exciting times are ahead!Birth comes after lots of anticipation and preparation

Read more on Ngala website

Developing a birth plan - Better Health Channel

A birth plan is a written summary of your preferences for when you are in labour and giving birth.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Making a birth plan

Many expectant parents develop a written plan covering what they would like to happen during labour and birth. Know what to include if you create your own plan.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

VBAC: vaginal birth after caesarean | Raising Children Network

For many women, vaginal birth after caesarean – VBAC – is a safe and positive way to have a baby. Our guide explains VBAC’s possible benefits and risks.

Read more on website

Maternity services in rural Tasmania

Find out what maternity services are available in rural or remote Tasmania.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Birth classes for men | Raising Children Network

In birth or antenatal classes for men, you learn about supporting your partner in birth and becoming a dad. You can get support from other dads-to-be.

Read more on website

Family & Friends - Birth Trauma

If you are reading this then you may have someone close to you that has been impacted by a difficult birth experience, be it a partner, loved one or someone

Read more on Australasian Birth Trauma Association website

Childbirth trauma and recovery | PANDA

While many pregnant women and their partners know birthing their baby will be hard work, very few expect labour and childbirth could be complicated.

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

Birth After Birth Trauma - Birth Trauma

This is a question that we hear often. How can I have another baby?

Read more on Australasian Birth Trauma Association website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.