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How to be a birth partner

As well as a midwife, another trusted person can provide support during labour and birth.

This person is often called a birth partner. They can be a partner, mother, sister or friend.

Research shows that women who have good support in labour:

  • use less pain-relieving drugs
  • have a more satisfying childbirth experience
  • have a better chance of a natural vaginal birth

Being a birth partner is a special role. Just being there for the mother can be very helpful.

Preparing to be a birth partner

If you are a birth partner, remember that you are not in the way.

Your support can help your loved one even in the early stages of labour before you go to the hospital.

Birth partner tips

Talk about the birth during early pregnancy to find out the mother's wishes.

Before the labour:

  • have a plan for parking – keep change handy
  • bring snacks for yourself
  • bring a change of clothes

Discuss techniques to deal with contractions and practice them.

Signs your labour has begun

Ask questions and support her wishes. Remember that plans may need to change depending on how things go. Share decisions together, as a team.

Helping your partner during labour

Respect her wishes – she will know what she needs. Make sure she is well supported and relaxed.

You should also:

  • practice any relaxation techniques you have learned
  • maintain eye contact – it can focus attention away from the pain
  • offer to massage her - remember she may find any touch annoying during labour
  • remind her of different birthing positions – you may need to support her in some of these positions

Avoid talking or asking questions during contractions

After the birth

Sometimes newborn babies look very different to babies who are a few weeks old. If you are not prepared for this, it can come as a surprise.

Be prepared for their skin to:

  • be wrinkled
  • have a redness or dryness
  • have a white coating

The baby’s head may be an unusual shape after passing through the birth canal. This is all normal.

What newborns look like

You may be able to cut the umbilical cord if you want to.

Page last reviewed: 4 January 2023
Next review due: 4 January 2026