How to Be a Great Birth Partner

Five Methods:Learn About the Birth ProcessBe Her Childbirth AdvocatePrepare for the DeliveryPractice Support StrategiesHave a Back-up Plan

If someone you know has asked you to be a birth partner, you may be wondering what is involved in the role. Follow these tips to be the best birth partner you can be.

Method 1
Learn About the Birth Process

In order to be most helpful to the woman giving birth, it is important you learn about the birth process. Particularly if she has not experienced childbirth before, you will be an important source of comfort and support for her. It is essential that you know what to expect so that you can help her navigate the birth process and stay focused on keeping her calm and comfortable.

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    Know what to expect before and during delivery. Reading about pregnancy and childbirth will help you support the mother and stay calm yourself. Read about contractions, dilation, pain management, presentation of the baby, timing, delivery methods, the involvement of health professionals, possible complications, and recovery expectations.
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    Talk to her doctor or midwife. Introducing yourself to the person who will be delivering the baby gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get advice about being a birth partner. Experienced obstetricians and midwives can share pointers for what to expect leading up to the birth and throughout the birth experience.

Method 2
Be Her Childbirth Advocate

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    Discuss her preferences for delivery.
    • Ask the expectant mother about her preferences for your role as birth partner, pain management techniques, communicating with medical staff, delivering at home or in a hospital, and how to handle emergency situations.
    • Discuss how she would like you to coach her, and practice conversations you may need to have with medical staff regarding her preferences.
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    Register yourself as the birth partner. In some cases, hospitals require that a birth partner be registered in advance in order to be able to attend the birth. Sign up if necessary.
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    Voice her preferences during delivery. Be alert, focused, and straightforward when communicating her preferences to medical staff. Do not be intimidated by the situation and be firm when you are sure about her preferences. Communicate any changes in plan to the relevant staff.

Method 3
Prepare for the Delivery

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    Attend a childbirth preparation class. Consider signing up for a Lamaze class or a similar course like prenatal yoga to prepare you and the expectant mother for the childbirth process.
    • Childbirth preparation courses typically cover strategies for keeping the mother calm, coaching her during delivery, reminding the mother to keep breathing effectively and pushing appropriately, and being supportive.
    • Practice any tips you learn on a regular basis prior to delivery so that you can focus solely on staying calm and guiding the mother as a birth partner when the time comes.
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    Pack a bag for the mother. Discuss with the expectant mother what she would like to have with her at the hospital and prepare a bag in advance.
    • Typical items include hygiene products (like a toothbrush and deodorant), a change of clothes, comfort items (like lotion or music), a few snacks, and items for the baby. Consider downloading a sample list from the Internet and customizing it according to the mother’s preferences.
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    Pack a bag for yourself. Remember that you will likely be at the hospital the same amount of time as the mother. Prepare a few items that will be ready whenever you need to go to the hospital or birth center.
    • You should consider packing hygiene items, a change of clothes, a camera, and any other items you would like to have accessible during or after delivery.

Method 4
Practice Support Strategies

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    Review breathing exercises. Breathing exercises are one of the most common, effective, and simple strategies you can practice for a smooth delivery before labor begins.
    • When she experiences contractions, focus on the breathing strategies and talking her through the process.
    • Focusing on your routine exercises will provide some semblance of normalcy or familiarity during the birth process and can help you provide support to the mother.
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    Stay calm. One of the easiest ways to be a great birth partner is to stay calm. Panicking, losing your temper, or raising your voice may only stress out the birth mother. Even if she resists your assistance or experiences volatile moods, it is crucial that you stay committed to helping her through the process and remain levelheaded.
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    Be physically, emotionally, and verbally supportive.
    • Obey her wishes while reiterating your dedication to keeping her comfortable and helping her through the whole process with whatever she needs.
    • Offer assistance during contractions and dilation by lending your arm for walks, showers, or massages.
    • Provide regular reminders that you are there for her and that if she wants anything she need only ask.
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    Offer encouragement before, during, and after delivery.
    • Encouraging her and anticipating her needs will help you become an excellent birth partner.
    • Remind her frequently how great she is doing and what an excellent mother she will be.
    • Stay positive about any progress she is making and remind her that the pain will soon be over and she will be a new mother.
    • Even if she experiences mood dips, encourage her to see the positive by reminding her that she is capable of making it through the pain and fatigue, and that she has your constant support.

Method 5
Have a Back-up Plan

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    Make sure someone can reach you.
    • If you work or travel, make sure that you are accessible by phone or beeper.
    • If you will temporarily be out of touch, check your messages regularly and notify her of where you will be, how to reach you, and when you expect to be available again.
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    Have a substitute for an emergency. In the case of a situation that precludes you from attending the birth, make sure you are able to notify a substitute birth partner or that the expectant mother will be able to contact someone else. Discuss this possibility in advance so that both you and the mother will know what to do in the event that you cannot attend the birth yourself.
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    Respect any changes in decisions the mother makes. If the mother reverses prior plans for pain management, birth attendants, or other delivery decisions, confirm her new decision in a calm, brief discussion and be respectful of her decisions. Do not attempt to force her to abide by her prior preferences if she clearly communicates a change of mind.


  • If, even after practice and preparation, you feel uncomfortable advocating for the expectant mother, consider hiring a doula or birth attendant to help with the birth coaching and advocacy responsibilities.

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Categories: Pregnancy