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same sex couple in labour

Birth partners provide valuable support during labour. Here we talk about how to find the right birth support for you and the benefits of birth companions.

You might choose your partner, a close friend or relative, or both. But whatever you do, you’ll want to think carefully about who you ask to be your birth companion. Some women even opt for a paid birth companion like an independent midwife or doula (Which? Birth Choice, 2018).

Whoever you choose as your birth partner you’ll need to feel comfortable with them. You’ll also want to be confident with their abilities to help you feel calm and reassured during labour. Nobody wants a birth partner who’ll run around panicking or hog the gas when you’re screaming for it.

Your birth partner will need to give you emotional and physical support as well as practical assistance during your labour (Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, 2004; Bohren et al, 2017; NHS Choices 2017). Think about who will be a positive support to you during labour.  


Around 90% of dads are present when their child is born in the UK (Which? Birth Choice, 2018). Most partners say being there when their baby is born is one of the most moving moments of their life. But some partners worry about being the only supporter.

Equally, some women don’t want their partner to see them go through labour, while others are worried about how their partner will cope. You could even consider having two birth partners so they can take turns to have breaks leaving one of them to stay supporting you.

Family members or friends as birth partners

Women have supported other women during birth for generations. So it’s hardly surprising lots of mums-to-be to choose their female family members instead of or as well as their partner.

Your mum or a woman who has been through childbirth will know what to expect during the different stages of labour. They’ll also have that insight into what it’s like to give birth, which might help her to support you well during labour (Which? Birth Choice, 2018).

Independent midwife or doula

You can choose to employ an independent midwife. They give you antenatal and postnatal care and can deliver your baby if you have a home birth. If you give birth in a birth centre or hospital labour ward, they’ll support you during labour and birth but won’t deliver your baby (Which? Birth Choice, 2018).

A doula is someone who you pay to support you emotionally during labour and birth. They will meet you beforehand to get to know you and will emotionally support you during labour and for the first few weeks after your baby’s birth. What they won’t do is directly deliver your baby (Which? Birth Choice, 2018).

How can your birth partners support you?

One of the best things they can do is to provide continuous emotional support for you during labour and help support you in whatever way you would like at the time. Read more in our how to be a brilliant birth partner and tips for birth partners articles.

The right birth support for you

Discuss in advance with your birth partner the type of birth you would like to have and how they can support you during labour. Your birth partner can also attend antenatal classes with you which is a good way to prepare for your baby’s birth.

This page was last reviewed in April 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

NCT Doulas provide women, and their partners, with skilled physical and emotional assistance during labour. They have up-to-date knowledge and information about labour and birth and help provide encouragement to woman. This helps enable them to have the type of labour and birth they would like. NCT Doulas are qualified professionals who have completed a professional Doula UK course, developed by NCT in partnership with the University of Worcester.

Doula UK provides information about doula services in the UK.

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

Bohren MA, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, Fukuzawa RK, Cuthbert A. (2017) Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (7):CD003766. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub6. Available from: [last accessed 12 April 2018].

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. (2004) Choosing your birthing partner. Available from: [last accessed 12 April 2018].

NHS Choices. (2017) Tips for your birth partner. Available from: [last accessed 12 April 2018].

Which? Birth Choice. (2017) Choosing your birth partner. Available from: [last accessed 12 April 2018].

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