Your birth partner can be your partner, if you have one, or a relative or friend. Some women hire a doula, who can give emotional and practical support before, during and after childbirth. A doula will have lots of experience of childbirth but not necessarily medical training.
Some women may feel pressure to pick a particular person as their birth partner. Choosing a birth partner is a personal decision, so try not to be influenced by anyone’s opinion or worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. Ask the person you trust the most, who you feel will support you best on the day and who you have the most confidence in.
You can have more than 1 birth partner if you want. But if you're having your baby in a hospital or birth centre, there may be a limit on the number of people you can have in the labour room with you. There may also be a limit if you have a caesarean section. You can ask your midwife about this during your pregnancy.
What do I need my birth partner to do?
Your birth partner’s job is to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible and to encourage you throughout your labour. You may find it helpful to choose someone who will:
- be sensitive to your needs
- stay calm and positive under pressure
- be attentive
- be able to explain what’s happening clearly and calmly
- ask for help if you need it, or speak up for you
- be able to reassure and comfort you
- be able to take control if you need them to.
Whoever you choose to be your birth partner, make sure you talk to them about how you’d like them to help. For example, you could talk to them about any relaxation techniques you want to use, such as hypnobirthing or show them how to use a TENS machine.
Share your hopes and fears for your labour with your birth partner and what you would or wouldn’t like to happen. Make sure they know what's on your birth plan.
Your birth partner should also understand that you may change your mind about your birth plan. For example, you may decide during labour that you don’t want a home birth after all or that you want a different kind of pain relief.
Childbirth doesn’t always go to plan and sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Try to choose a birth partner you think will be able to be flexible, stay calm under pressure and help you make decisions about your care.
You may find it helpful to go to antenatal classes with your birth partner. This can give you an opportunity to understand more about what happens in labour and birth, and practice coping strategies together. This can help you both feel more confident and prepared for when labour starts.