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Your birth partner should be someone you know and trust, who'll remain by your side throughout your labour and support you when the going gets tough. It can be anyone you like: the father of your child, your mum, your sister, a good friend or a doula.
If you're having a home birth, you can have as many people as you want in attendance - although you probably won't fancy a big crowd.
Some hospitals allow you to have two birth partners, but check their policy first; one tends to be the limit. You should also let your midwife know who will be present.
Why have a birth partner?
Studies have shown that having the support of a birth partner can lessen how scared and tired you feel and possibly even reduce your perception of pain.
What are they for?
Support, reassurance and encouragement are a birth partner's main duties. How they provide them is up to you. You might ask them to massage your back, ensure you're keeping your fluid levels up, feed you glucose tablets, tell you you're doing great when you feel like giving up, remind you to keep mobile, pass you the gas and air - or just hold your hand and let you squeeze the life out of theirs.
If intervention is suggested, they should try to ensure you
know what's going on
have enough information to make an informed choice
are given enough time to weigh up your options (where possible)
If necessary, they may need to ask for more information or a second opinion on your behalf.
They should also be aware that even though you might have written something in blood in your birth plan, you're allowed to change your mind about how you'd like your care to proceed at any point.
Yes, it's their job to remind you that you didn't really want pethidine and why, but you're the one giving birth and what you say goes.
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Choosing the right person for the job
It's vital you feel relaxed and able to communicate freely with your birth partner. No one knows how they will react during labour, but your birth partner should be aware you may forget your Ps and Qs at some point and possibly behave in ways they had no idea you were capable of.
It will help immensely if they can don a thick skin for the duration, and agree that anything said in the delivery room, stays in the delivery room.
It's also a good idea for them to attend antenatal classes with you and try to find time to practise your breathing exercises together and any massage techniques you might like them to use.
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Get advice on prepping your birth partner for labour
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