As the birth of your baby draws closer, most women begin to think about who they want at the delivery. While your doctor or midwife will be there at the actual birth, the labor process, from your first contractions to when you see your baby for the first time, may last for many hours. During this time, your labor and delivery nurse(s) will play a key role. Their knowledge and experience cannot be understated. Still, most women choose to have an additional person (or more) present to attend to their physical and emotional needs, relieve stress and ensure their wishes are communicated. Many different people can fill the role of a bedside birth support person or coach. Whom you choose depends on your specific situation and needs, but here are a few things to consider.
Doctors and midwives are on call 24/7 for that moment your baby decides to enter the world, but not all potential birth coaches have the same availability. Some spouses travel regularly for work; parents and other family members sometimes live far away; and doulas may have multiple clients with due dates similar to yours. It’s critical that your birth coach can be with you in the middle of the night, during a workday, or over holidays: whenever your labor begins. If yours may not be able to travel or take the time off for your delivery, search for a backup who can. Sometimes spouses are able to let their work know that they have a baby due “any day now” and can request to work locally, if travel is a concern.
For your first birth, you may decide to choose a birth coach who’s familiar with labor and prepared to support you during any unforeseen event. This doesn’t necessarily preclude spouses and friends who haven’t experienced birth firsthand; they just need to be prepared in advance through reading or birthing classes—or both. If you feel you need a coach who’s been present at multiple births, you may want to consider a doula – they’re professionals who work exclusively with women before, during and in the weeks following labor.
Remember that when you are admitted to the hospital, you will have a dedicated labor nurse who is assigned to your care. She, like your physician or midwife, has been present at hundreds of births, and will be able to answer many of your questions and help support you through your labor. She may also be able to offer your partner or other support person suggestions on how to make you more comfortable as you make this transition into motherhood.
Family members, friends, spouses, and professionals can serve as bedside birth coaches, and each possesses unique emotional and experiential benefits.
- In decades past, partners used to be exiled to the waiting room, but thankfully this is no longer the case. A partner can serve as a tremendous advocate for your wishes, and their participation can emotionally unify your family from the very beginning. After all, they are also becoming a parent!
- Parents and other relatives are similarly vested in your best interests. As long as you don’t have a relationship filled with tension, family can prove powerful and encouraging support. Keep in mind that while some women enjoy the support of a large, close-knit family during labor, others prefer a more intimate birth setting with just the primary support person, and may choose to wait until after the baby is born to invite friends and family.
- Close friends may not be related by blood, but that distance can work to your favor. They can often help you make more considered decisions and offer unbiased advice to ensure your needs are met.
- Doulas are professional birth coaches; your relationship doesn’t begin until you’ve hired one. As a professional, they can act as facilitators between you and your family and your medical team.
With diapers, nursery furnishings, and hospital bills, adding the financial investment of a professional birth coach may not be feasible. This is especially true if you have plans for a postpartum doula, which can be even more valuable.
Choosing who is present at your birth and preparing them to support you effectively is an important part of your birth experience, but keep in mind that you will also have the support of your provider and hospital care team. Lean on them—they want what’s best for you and your baby and have helped hundreds—even thousands— become mothers (and fathers!).
Whoever you choose as your bedside birth support, we at Women’s Healthcare Associates work to support you throughout your pregnancy and delivery. To discuss your options more, schedule an appointment by contacting a provider today!