Who can be my birth partner?

Your birth partner should give you practical and emotional support during labour. You can choose anyone to be your birth partner.

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.


Read more about labour and birth

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    Asking for pain relief during labour

    You should feel that your needs and wishes are being listened to during labour, particularly around pain relief. Every labour and birth is unique and care should be tailored to you.

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    This part of labour can sometimes last a long time. This page explains what the latent phase of labour is and how to get through it as comfortably as possible.

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    Week 41. Hello baby - my birth story

    In the diary of a third pregnancy our diarist tries to capture the pain and magic of the birth of her son.

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    What is hypnobirthing?

    Hypnobirthing is a method of pain management that can be used during labour and birth. It involves using a mixture of visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques.

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    Having a home birth

    You might like to consider giving birth at home for a more relaxed experience in familiar surroundings. Find out whether this is the right option for you.

  • Waterbirth

    How to prepare for a water birth

    Are you thinking about having a water birth? Find out about the advantages and disadvantages of giving birth in the water, what to wear and what the pain relief options are.

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    Delayed cord clamping (DCC)

    Cutting the cord immediately after the birth has been routine practice for 50-60 years but more recently research is showing that it is not good for the baby.

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    What to expect when your waters break

    If your waters break naturally, you may feel a slow trickle or a sudden gush of fluid that you can’t stop. Your waters may break before you go to hospital but are more likely to break during labour.

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    Braxton Hicks

    Braxton Hicks contractions are the body’s way of preparing for labour, but if you have them it doesn’t mean your labour has started. Here, we explain more about Braxton Hicks.

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    5 positive ways to prepare for labour

    If you’re feeling a bit anxious about giving birth, there are things you can do that may help. Here’s some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.

  • Pregnant woman sitting on exercise mat.

    Getting your baby into the best birth position

    The ideal position for your baby to be in for labour and birth is head down, their back towards the front of your stomach.

  • Pregnant woman holding her back.

    4 ways your body gets ready for labour

    At the end of your pregnancy, you may have some signs that your baby will arrive very soon, even though you may not go into labour for a little while yet.

    Last reviewed on June 12th, 2019. Next review date June 12th, 2022.

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