Choosing your birthing partner

Birthing partners provide valuable support for pregnant women during labour. You can choose your birth companions from partners, relatives, friends or professionals.

Whoever you choose to support you at your baby’s birth, it is important to remember that it’s your decision and that you will benefit from feeling as relaxed and confident as possible. Birthing partners are often actual partners but can also be family members, friends or professional supporters. Deciding who your supporter will be when you are putting together your plan for when your baby is born provides you with peace of mind during pregnancy. 

Partners

About 97% of fathers are now present when their child is born. This represents a major change from 40 years ago, when partners were not always welcome in delivery rooms.

Most partners describe being there when their child is born as one of the most moving moments of their life. But some men feel concerned about being their partner’s only supporter. Equally, some women don’t want their partners seeing them go through labour, while others are worried about how their partner will cope.

There are other ways of being supported in labour. You can have more than one birthing partner present for a vaginal childbirth (there may be restrictions if you are having a caesarean). Having two supporting partners can ease the pressure on each of them – enabling them to go to the loo or take a break without leaving you alone.

Family members or friends as birthing partners

Women have supported other women during childbirth for thousands of years. You could ask your mother or mother-in-law, sister, or a good friend (maybe one who has given birth herself) to support you. Whoever you choose, you need to know them well enough to feel really comfortable and relaxed with them.

Professionals

Professionally, you could choose an independent midwife or a doula:

  • Independent midwives are usually self-employed and work alongside, but not as part of, the NHS. An independent midwife can provide all your antenatal and postnatal care, as well as being there when the baby is born. 
  • Doulas offer physical and emotional support to you and your partner during labour and when your child is born. For instance, NCT Doulas provide one-to-one support for parents from late pregnancy, through labour, having your baby, and into the first hours and weeks with their new baby. The service is available for a fee for mothers and couples. Maternity units can also contact NCT to provide this service free of charge to women from disadvantaged groups or those with special needs during labour and during childbirth. 

If you are going to be a birthing partner, you might like to read our tips for childbirth partners and the guide to labour

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, having a baby and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about having a baby, labour and life with a new child.

NCT Doulas provide women, and their partners, with skilled physical and emotional assistance, as well as up-to-date knowledge, information and encouragement to help them have the type of labour and birth they would most like. NCT Doulas are all qualified professionals who have completed a nine-month course, developed by NCT in partnership with the University of Worcester, which is a recognised Doula UK course.

Doula UK provides information about doula services in the UK.

NHS choices offers tips for partners and advice on preparing a plan.