birth partner

Birthing partners clearly play a key role. Here are some tips for birth partners of women planning to give birth at a birth centre (a midwife-led centre).

Tips for birthing partners

  1. Talk through your birthing partner’s role so that they’re clear about how you want them to help when you’re in labour.
  2. Ask your birthing partner if they’d like to come along to antenatal classes and/or midwife appointments.
  3. If you have one, talk through your birth plan with your birthing partner so they know what you want. That way they can encourage you to keep mobile, change position, get into the water or whatever’s key yet easy to forget in the moment (Bohren et al, 2017).
  4. Suggest a bit of light reading to them – important things to find out about include the stages of labour, pain relief and relaxation techniques.
  5. …Speaking of which, suggest to them they pick up massage oil to give you a relaxing rub in the early stages of labour (Bohren et al, 2017). It’s part of the job description.   
  6. If possible, take your birthing partner on a tour of the unit so that you can both get familiar with it. Use the Which? Birth Choices tool for contact details and how to book a tour if they offer them.
  7. Find out what’s available for your birth partner at the birth centre or midwife-led unit. You could see what facilities there are for them to stay over, for example. These centres often have more options for them than hospitals, which is something your birth partner is likely to appreciate (Symon et al, 2011).
  8. Make a plan for travelling to the unit. If your birth partner is driving, talk about routes. If you are going in a taxi, make sure your birthing partner has the company’s number in their phone. Find out about parking too, to see if you’ll need to keep some change ready.   
  9. Talk your birthing partner through your hospital bag – and suggest they pack their own too. Some drinks, snacks, cash and a change of clothes will come in handy.
  10. Ask your birthing partner to be an advocate for you and support you during labour – especially if you’re unable to communicate well at points (Bohren et al, 2017)

Ten questions your birthing partner may ask the birth centre or midwife-led unit

  1. How do you make contact with the unit or centre when labour starts? (Make sure you and your birth partner have the contact details in your mobile.)
  2. Can they stay with you all the time or might they be asked to leave the room?
  3. Can they stay overnight with you?
  4. Will they be able to come with you if you have to transfer to hospital? (Including in the ambulance.)
  5. What will happen if you need to be transferred to hospital?
  6. Can they bring in equipment from home, eg music or essential oils?
  7. Can they stay with you after the birth?
  8. Are there any facilities for birth partners, eg somewhere to wash and change?
  9. What happens and where do you need to go if the unit or centre is temporarily closed because of staff shortages?
  10. Is it ok to create your own environment, eg play music and dim the lights?

This page was last reviewed in August 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 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.

Which? BirthChoiceUK provides information aimed at helping parents make the right choice about where to give birth.

Bohren MA, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C, Fukuzawa RK, Cuthbert A. (2017) Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (7):CD003766. Available from: http://www.cochrane.org/CD003766/PREG_continuous-support-women-during-childbirth [Accessed 21st May 2018]

Symon AG, Dugard P, Butchart M, Carr V, Paul J. (2011) Care and environment in midwife-led and obstetric -led units: a comparison of mothers’ and birth partners’ perceptions. Midwifery. 27(6):880-886. Available from: https://www.midwiferyjournal.com/article/S0266-6138(10)00153-1/fulltext [Accessed 21st May 2018]

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