Whatever you do, don’t underestimate it; choosing a great birth support team is very important.
Deciding who will be present during childbirth can make a massive difference to the outcome of your labor. If you choose a great support team, you’ll be well supported throughout the toughest parts of labor – the times you might feel as though you want to give up.
Your support people will help you to reach your goal, and as a result, you might achieve more than you ever expected.
Why the right support person is important
When you choose birth support people, be mindful of what good labor support means. The right support will include emotional support, practical support and even social support. Taking all these parameters into account will help you decide what kind and how many support people you will need.
Choose the wrong people and you could end up feeling stressed, vulnerable, anxious and not supported in the way you had hoped. It could even leave an epidural looking mighty seductive as you enter the hospital or birthing suite. When a mother-to-be is feeling out of control or unsupported in labor, it’s common for her to seek the quickest exit off the intensity freeway, so she has one less thing in her life to worry about. Unlike her environment, it is something she is able to control.
How do you choose the best support team for you? Here are some helpful tips when you are deciding who to include in your birth support team.
Please note: these tips refer to untrained birth support people, such as a family member or friends. If you’d like professional birth support, consider hiring a doula or independent/homebirth midwife.
Read more about this in What Is A Doula? 11 Important Facts About Doulas.
What is the meaning of birth support?
Your birth support describes the person or people who will be by your side when you go into labor and all the way through to the birth. Birth support are the people you call when the magic begins and they take care of what you’ve previously agreed, so you can focus on what your body is telling you to do while you know ‘the rest’ is in safe hands.
What I mean by ‘the rest’ will differ for each person. Your support people might help you with logistics, take care of you and your family and your other children, take you to the hospital, if that’s where you’re giving birth, or call the health workers involved, such as a midwife or doula, if the birth will be at home.
Your support people will provide reassurance and encourage you. They will advocate for you when necessary but, overall, your labor support team will make you and your whole family feel comfortable, loved and cared for, so you and your partner can focus on you, birthing your baby and becoming parents.
Who should I have with me when I give birth?
That will really depend on you and your individual needs. A birth partner is someone who provides labor support. It’s someone of your choice and it doesn’t need to be the baby’s father. A birth partner can be a friend or a family member. You might prefer to be looked after by another woman who has already given birth or by someone you can truly be yourself with.
I’ve given birth 3 times. No midwife, no doula, no doctor nor healthcare provider was present – mostly just my husband and older children.
In my second childbirth, a close family friend was also with us, as we had a toddler and it was important to have that extra person, in case she was needed or my child needed something.
My first child slept throughout the whole process and my friend picked up the camera while I had continuous support from my husband. She was the perfect match for us and that was the only birth where we have lots of beautiful pictures.
Only you can know who will be the right partner or support person for you. The clearer you are about this, the more benefits you’ll get out of this life-changing experience.
Can I have more than one birthing partner?
It should be you who decides how many people accompany you. During the pandemic, some hospitals were quite strict about numbers. Now, however, you should be able to be accompanied by those you’ve chosen. The World Health Organization supports women’s choice of labor partner as a basic human right and did so even during the past pandemic.
5 tips for choosing your birth support person
#1. Choose a partner who respects your choices
There’s nothing worse than going through pregnancy and childbirth with people who try to undermine your choices or decisions, and who don’t genuinely assist you because they think their suggestions are better.
If potential support people are often going on about what they would do, what they did or what you should do, this is a recipe for disaster in the birth room. Not only should the birth room be quiet and respectful, it should be free from people who add any stress or drama. Stress can really derail the birth. If the mother-to-be releases adrenaline during labor, as a result of being stressed or anxious, it can slow or stall the labor progress. It can even involve complications.
A good way to find out how people will respond to your choices is to go through your birth plan with them and see what their reactions are. Are they accepting what they hear? Or do they make judgments and question you, in a non-curious way?
#2. Consider choosing someone who has had the birth you’re aiming for
Great birth support people can come in all shapes and forms. Something to consider when choosing the person to support you, however, is the kind of birth experience she had. If you want to have a natural birth and will do whatever it takes to avoid a cesarean section, it might be wise to choose someone who has done exactly that, rather than an expert in operating theatre procedures.
If you want a natural birth and your support person has had caesareans, she might be lovely but might not know how to help you get past the craziness of transition and help you to draw on all your inner resources.
On the other hand, if you’re having a cesarean, someone who has had a vaginal birth won’t have the experience of what you will be going through and how different the procedures are. She might feel clueless about how to support you and even a bit out of place.
#3. Choose a support partner who is a great listener
When you talk to potential birth support people, do they listen to what you have to say and give you their full presence? Or do they seem to talk and constantly interrupt rather than being present with you? Someone who listens to you now will be a better listener during labor when it becomes even more important. When the person asks lots of questions and shows curiosity about what you want, this is a great sign.
#4. Choose someone who isn’t hyped up about seeing the baby
Anyone who has the honor of being present at a birth has some degree of excitement, awe and respect for the birth process. But some people think it’s just so exciting to see babies being born. But remember, you’re not looking for spectators.
Women need support in childbirth. You need someone who will encourage you to change positions, to encourage progress and who will be by your side no matter what. There’s nothing worse than birthing your baby when people talk, jump around, chatter and cheer in the background, while you get through one of the biggest physical and emotional challenges a woman can experience. You need a support person who’s as solid as a rock for as many hours as it takes. You need someone who respects the physical and the emotional part of the process and who is there for you, not for the baby.
#5. Choose a support person who’s willing to learn with you
Even if your support person has given birth before, a willingness to take part in learning with you is a really big sign that she really wants to be the best support possible. You know you’re on a winner when you find someone who’s happy to go to birth classes with you or help out with the most boring or tedious of details.
If you can get your birth support team along to birth classes (and I highly recommend independent birth classes), then this is a great way for your team to work well together and to find out how they can best support you.
What if you don’t have good support?
Rather than pick someone who you think will be ‘okay’ but not great, consider the benefits of hiring a doula or even a student doula, if money is a problem. Doulas are trained, experienced caregivers who provide continuous care.
Find out more in our article What Is A Doula | 11 Important Facts About Doulas.
The birth of a baby is a big deal, and it can all go wrong if women invite the wrong people into this sacred space.
If you choose someone you are not sure of, you run the risk of a disappointing experience that you will always remember; it just isn’t worth it unless you are 100% sure. You don’t owe it to anyone – not even your mother or mother-in-law – to allow them to be present.
If you’re not sure how to say no, check out our article on Saying ‘No’ To Unwanted Birth Support People.
Other useful articles:
- Birth Support – 10 Best Tips For An Untrained Support Person
- Dads-To-Be: A Guide To Labour & How To Support Her.
Giving birth without a support person
This is absolutely okay, too. Women have been giving birth on their own for many thousands of years and, honestly, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
I had been a qualified health provider focused on natural birth for more than 12 years when I became a mother. As I told you, I’ve given birth three times and my kids have never seen a doctor, doulas or midwives professionally, apart from family friends who happen to work in those professions.
To birth a baby, a woman really only needs herself. But let me explain a bit further. Although women’s bodies haven’t changed for thousands of years, the conditions in which women give birth have completely changed – to the point that most women nowadays choose to give birth in the most unfavorable conditions: often in hospital, surrounded by others and, what’s worse, giving their birthing power to somebody else.
A woman needs to be well prepared to regain her power and surrender to the experience. There are coaches and experts who offer online sessions and can tailor childbirth classes with individualized and practical information specifically to help you birth your baby.