Who can be my birth partner?

The role of a birth partner is to give you practical and emotional support during labour. Find out who you can choose and how they can help.

There are lots of reasons to have a birth partner. As well as making you feel more supported, having someone with you can help you cope better with contraction pain, and help your labour itself go more smoothly. But how do you choose the right person? 

For some people, it is an easy decision – the baby’s parent, your current partner, a close friend, or a relative. Or, you could hire a doula. This is a pro birth partner. They can give you emotional and practical support before, during and after childbirth. A doula will have lots of experience in pregnancy and childbirth, but they are not likely to have medical training, so they cannot replace your midwife.  

Choosing a birth partner is personal, and it’s a time to put yourself first. Try not to be influenced by others or feel pressured into choosing someone. Do not worry about hurting people’s feelings. Ask the person you trust the most and who you feel will support you best on the day.

Think about choosing someone who will:

  • Be sensitive and compassionate about your needs.
  • Stay calm under pressure.
  • Be able to give you practical support, such as helping you to move around.
  • Explain to you what is going on, clearly and calmly.
  • Help you cope with pain, by supporting you with breathing and relaxation techniques.
  • Ask for help if you need it, or speak up for you.
  • Be able to make you feel better and comfort you.
  • Be able to take control, if you need them to.

Can I choose more than 1 birth partner?

Yes, you can have more than 1 birth partner if you want to. 

If you are giving birth at home, you can have as many birth partners as you want. But if you are having your baby in a hospital or birth centre, there may be a limit on the number of people you can have in the room with you. There may also be a limit if you have a caesarean section. Ask your midwife about this, during your pregnancy.

If you have disabilities or English is not your first language, you may need extra support to give birth, such as a carer or an interpreter. These should not be counted as birth partners.  

What do I need my birth partner to do?

Your birth partner’s job is to make sure you are as relaxed as possible and to encourage you throughout your labour. 

Make sure you talk with them about how you would like them to help, well in advance. For example, you could talk to them about any relaxation techniques you want to use, such as hypnobirthing, or show them how to place the pads from your TENS machine. 

Share your hopes and fears for your labour with your birth partner. This should include what you would or would not like to happen. Make sure they know what is on your birth plan

Your birth partner should also be aware that you may change your birth plan at any point. You might decide during labour that you do not want a home birth after all, or you may want a different kind of pain relief once your contractions start. Only you can consent to any treatment, but your partner can help convey your wishes to health professionals, if you need them to.  

Childbirth does not always go to plan. Sometimes, things happen that are beyond your control. Try to choose a birth partner who can pivot, will stay calm under pressure, and can help you make choices about your care.

You may find it helpful to go to antenatal classes with your birth partner. This can give you the chance to understand more about what happens in labour and birth, and practise coping strategies together. This can help you both feel more prepared for when labour starts.

Can my birth partner stay with me after the birth? 

If you give birth in a hospital there may be a limit on how long your birth partner can stay with you and your baby. It will depend on your hospital’s policy. Some partners can stay overnight, while others are asked to leave and come back during visiting hours.   

If you are worried about your partner leaving, talk to one of the nurses on your ward, and explain why you would like your partner to stay. They should hear you out, and they may be able to arrange for your partner to stay for longer.

Birthrights. Birth partners. Available at: https://www.birthrights.org.uk/factsheets/birth-partners/  Accessed: 5 April 2023

Bohren MA, Hofmeyr GJ et al (2017) Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jul 6;7(7):CD003766. doi: 10.1002/14651858.

Bohren MA, Berger BO et al (2019) Perceptions and experiences of labour companionship: a qualitative evidence synthesis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Mar 18;3(3):CD012449.

Jayne Marshall and Maureen Raynor (2020) Myles textbook for midwives, 17th ed. Elsevier

NHS. Tips for your birth partner. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/what-happens/tips-for-your-birth-partner/ (Page last reviewed: 12 May 2023. Next review due: 12 May 2026)

Review dates
Reviewed: 07 February 2024
Next review: 07 February 2027