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Choosing a birth support partner

4-minute read

Having people to support you during childbirth can offer many benefits both to you and your baby. It's up to you to decide who will be your support partner. Although it's common for women to choose their life partner to be at the birth, you certainly don't have to.

Should my partner be at the birth?

Labour can be long and tiring for a support partner, especially if it goes for many hours. It can also be difficult for them to see you in pain or discomfort. If you’re not confident that your partner can fully support you, or if you think they may feel sick, worried or uncomfortable, you can choose for someone else to be present. Alternatively, you can have your life partner attend part of the labour and have someone else support you for the whole time.

Your partner may not be available at the time you go into labour. They could be away from home (serving in the armed forces, for example) or be very ill. In that case it’s good to have a ‘back-up’ support person.

Other birth support partners could be a close friend, sibling, mother or a paid doula. You may like to have a support person with you who has been through, or seen, a birth before.

Benefits of birth support partners

Having the right support people can help during childbirth by reducing the length of labour, decreasing pain, decreasing the chance of an assisted delivery (using forceps or a ventouse) and caesarean, as well as boosting your confidence and enhancing your experience of labour.

How can my birth support partner help me?

Before the birth, your support person can:

During the birth, it’s important that your support person focuses entirely on you and what you need. This can involve:

  • encouraging and comforting you
  • supporting you in some birth positions
  • guiding your breathing and other ways of coping
  • being your advocate, which means communicating your needs to your maternity team
  • letting you know what your maternity team advises
  • massaging you, holding your hand and wiping your face
  • offering you snacks, drinks and ice
  • helping you into a bath or shower
  • letting you know what is happening as your labour progresses
  • being in the operating theatre if you have a caesarean
  • updating family members on your progress, if you wish

After the birth, as you get used to taking care of your newborn baby, your birth partner may support you by:

  • being with you while you learn to breastfeed
  • looking after other children, if you have them
  • feeding, settling and taking your baby for walks
  • taking on more household tasks
  • giving you emotional support

What should I consider when choosing a birth support partner?

It’s important that you’re able to feel comfortable with, and say whatever you want to, your birth support partner.

Your support person is there to help you, not simply to watch. Choose someone who can be there when you go into labour, is calm and positive and will work hard for you. You may prefer to have a woman in the room who has had an uncomplicated birth herself.

Check with your doctor, midwife, hospital or birthing centre about how many support people can be in the room with you. They can also advise on the optimal number of people in a birthing suite.

Can I use a professional birth support person?

Yes. The professional support person most commonly used is called a doula. Doulas are not medical professionals; they provide you with emotional and practical support during your baby’s birth. Their job is to help make your labour a more positive experience by encouraging you, helping with relaxation and birth positions, massaging you if you wish, and giving support to your birth partner.

As well as supporting you during labour, your doula will also arrange meetings with you before the birth and may also provide support afterwards.

Where to go for more advice

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Last reviewed: February 2020


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Need more information?

Being a birth support partner

Learn more about supporting a woman in birth and labour, whether you are her partner, relative or a friend.

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