As your baby’s due date draws nearer, most birthing people begin to think about who they want in the room during their labor, which may last for many hours with varying circumstances. 

While your doctor or midwife will be present for the actual birth, if you’re giving birth in a hospital, your labor and delivery nurses will be those you see most frequently during the labor process—from your first contractions to when you see your baby for the first time.

Many birthing people will also choose to have an additional person (or more) present who’s focused on your comfort, from physical and emotional needs to stress relief to advocacy and communication. Who that is is entirely up to you! Here are some tips to help you select the right support person for the experience you hope for.

1. Understand the role of a support person and consider your options.

Because a support person provides comfort, encouragement and assistance to help you through the labor process, considering your personal relationships as they relate to this role will help you find your fit. When considering family members, friends, spouses and professionals, each will offer different emotional and experiential benefits, so be sure to evaluate their capability and approach to emotional support.

  • Your Partner: While partners may have been exiled to the waiting room in decades past, they can now be your best advocate and consistent bedside support. If a partner is part of the picture, they are a logical first choice.
  • Your Family: 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 birthing people 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 into the experience.
  • Your Friends: Close friends may not be related by blood, but that distance can work in your favor. They can often help you make more considered decisions and offer unbiased advice to ensure your needs are met.
  • A Doula: 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.

2. Assess their willingness and availability.

Doctors and midwives are on call 24/7 for the 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. Having a plan in place for an alternate support person will help ease your mind.

3. Communicate your expectations.

Once you’ve identified potential support persons, communicate your expectations and birth plan with them. Discuss your desires, preferences and any specific support you might need, such as massage, relaxation techniques or advocacy for your birth plan. This helps ensure the person is willing and able to support you in the ways you need.

4. Consider their knowledge and experience.

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 exclude 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 want a coach who’s been present at multiple births, you may want to consider a doula—they’re professionals who work exclusively with birthing people before, during and in the weeks following labor.

If you’re having a hospital birth, you will have a dedicated labor nurse who is assigned to your care (or more than one, depending on the duration of your labor). They, like your physician or midwife, have been present at hundreds of births and will be able to answer many of your questions and help support you through your labor. They may also be able to offer your partner or other support person suggestions on how to make you more comfortable.

5. Take cost into account.

With hospital bills, diapers, nursery furnishings and so many other baby necessities, adding the financial investment of a professional birth support person may not be feasible. This is especially true if you have plans for a postpartum doula, which can be even more valuable for those early days of parenthood.

Your birth support person is an important part of your birth experience, in addition to the support of your provider and care team. Whoever you choose as your birth support person, Women’s Healthcare Associates works to support you throughout pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Call one of our offices to begin care for your pregnancy today.