Birth partners are the person or people that you choose to be with you during labour and birth.
Over the last few decades it has become the norm to assume that a woman’s partner will be the person to support her and be present during labour and birth, historically however this was certainly not always the case. Until very recently birth was the domain of women, with female family members or experienced women in the immediate locality being the ones who supported birthing women. There is now a visible trend towards women including more than one other person in their labour and birth space. This blog will discuss how you might decide who you want with you during your labour and birth.
Your partner might seem the obvious choice as you share your life with them, they know you well and you are going to be parenting your baby together if you live in the same place! However, everyone is an individual and some partners may need to think about gaining a better understanding of what their role means to support someone during the labour and birth. There is lots of information online to help as well as antenatal classes to attend to help with knowledge building around labour and birth. Hypnobirthing is also fantastic preparation for labour and birth, as well as helping both you and your partner to release any existing fears surrounding pregnancy, labour and birth. For a few partners though, it may be that this is just not the role for them and choosing someone else would be better for you and them for your labour and birth.
A doula is a birth support partner whom you employ to help you make choices during pregnancy and labour. They are knowledgeable on many aspects of pregnancy, labour and birth but do not provide any clinical care like a midwife or doctor. Your doula will get to know you and your birthing preferences well during your pregnancy and can often be a great support, not only for you but also for your partner too during this time. For more information about doulas click here to read our blog.
Family members or friends
Although 90% of birth partners for women in the UK is their partner, more women are now involving other family members and friends, who have often given birth themselves or whom they believe can offer extra support and help. These additional birth partners can often be of great use if you have a long labour as they can take over whilst your partner has a short rest or vice versa.
Things to consider when choosing a birth partner
Make sure they know what to expect. Encourage them to read information about labour and birth so that they understand the realities of childbirth, such as how long labour can last, the procedures that could be involved and how to adapt their role as a birth partner to your needs etc.
Make a birth plan and involve your birth partner(s) when writing it, this will give them a really good overview of your wishes for your labour and birth. Make sure there are a few copies and they know where to find it, so they can give them to those caring for you in labour to read.
Be honest with yourself. It’s important you have the right people around you during your labour and birth. You want those people to be able to encourage and empower you, not be worried or feel unable to provide you with the help and support you need at this time- not everyone is cut out for this role.
Make sure the person or people that you choose can give you the support you require. For example, if you want to try massage during labour it would be good to practice this with them during pregnancy.
You can have more than one birth partner if you decide to have your baby in hospital or at a birth centre- check beforehand what their policies are for extra birth partners. If you decide to give birth at home, you can have as many birth partners as you want.
Choosing a birth partner is personal but choosing the right person can mean valuable support for your labour and birth. Don’t forget that you can have more than one birth partner to support you.