Choosing a birthing partner

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Etienne Horner discusses the role of birth partners

Over the last few months, many of my patients have asked about the role of a birth partner and whom they should choose to fulfil this role. Whether you choose your husband, partner, friend, mother, doula or a midwife, I feel very strongly that they play the second most important role during labour, the first being the delivering woman, of course.

Being a birth partner does not simply mean being present at the birth. They must take responsibility if needed. As birth partner, you will represent the woman in labour if the process becomes intense or complicated.

Your birth partner must be a person you are very close to and trust to be able to speak on your behalf if the need arises.

During labour you should not feel alone at any stage because the birth partner should represent and support you through the good and bad times. Of course, we hope your birth is smooth sailing, however, sometimes labour is long and, with sleep deprivation, emotions yo-yo meaning progress can be slow.
The birth partner is needed for support and potentially to help communication with the medical team. It often helps to hear someone else repeat what the midwife or doctor has said to help you understand what they mean. Hopefully, the birth partner is not needed for difficult situations and decision-making, so they are there simply as someone who is part of your everyday life, bringing a little bit of normality into the labour room.

In most cases the partner acts as the birthing partner but sometimes they feel obliged to take on this role and are not always the ideal choice in terms of support. However, they are still the partner and the future parent. Therefore, I always prefer to meet the partner prior to birth so we can talk about the importance of being the companion and partner during labour.