Pregnancy and childbirth are exciting times, but they can also be overwhelming. One way to ensure a positive birth experience is to have a strong and supportive birth team. Your birth team is the group of medical and non-medical support people helping you when you give birth. This blog post will discuss who to include on your birth team and why each member is important.
Who Should Be on Your Birth Team?
Partner or Support Person
Most people select their main support person to be their partner, spouse, close friend, or family member. This person typically knows you very well and has a close and supportive role in your life. They provide emotional support and can help relay your birth preferences to healthcare providers and advocate for you. They can also help with pain management techniques such as massage, counterpressure, and breathing exercises throughout labor. It's a great idea for this person to attend childbirth education classes with you so they are ready and know the basics of how to best support you during labor.
Not everyone has a partner or support person. As a doula, I have stepped in as the main support person for military families or large families who could not get their childcare needs met. Consider hiring a doula if you don't have a support system or your partner or main support person is not readily available to support you during labor.
Midwife and/or OBGYN
Your midwife and/or OBGYN will be responsible for monitoring your health and your baby's health during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. They can also provide guidance on pain management options and help you make informed decisions about your care. Finding a care provider that you trust, who listens to you, and who honors your preferences is essential to the health of your birth team.
Unsure about the difference between an OBGYN, midwife, and doula? Check out Breaking Down Birth Support: The Differences between a Midwife, OBGYN, and Doula
A doula is a trained birth professional who provides emotional, physical, informational, and advocacy support before, during, and after birth. They can help with pain management techniques and offer suggestions for positions and movements that may be helpful during labor. Doulas do not offer clinical or medical support. More information about doula support and if it’s right for you can be found here.
Having a birth photographer can capture the moments of your birth experience that you may not remember afterward. They can also help you process and remember the details of your birth experience. While birth photography is relatively new, it has become much more popular in recent years.
Additional Support Persons
Family members, friends, or lactation consultants are considered additional support persons if they are not already your principal support person mentioned above. Friends and family can provide emotional support and help with tasks such as caring for other children or providing meals. Depending on your birth location, you may want to check how many additional support people can be present. Having some helping hands to clean up and cook after a home birth can be very helpful.
Most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff. It is great to request their support during your hospital stay. I do recommend; however, you connect with a lactation consultant outside of the hospital for a home visit in your initial days postpartum. While they might not be present on the birth day, they can help catch any lactation challenges early on.
Why is a Birth Team Important?
Having a strong birth team can provide emotional support during labor, birth, and postpartum. They can offer encouragement and provide a calming presence, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Your birth team can help you advocate for your wishes and make informed decisions about your care. They can communicate with healthcare providers on your behalf and help you navigate the healthcare system.
Members of your birth team can offer different pain management techniques such as massage, counterpressure, and breathing exercises. They can also help you make informed decisions about pain medication options.
A birth team can help you document and remember the details of your birth experience. A birth photographer can capture photos of the birth, while family members, friends, and your doula can help you write out your birth story.
A strong and supportive birth team is important for a positive birth experience. You want to be discerning about choosing the right people to attend your birth. It’s crucial you have people who will advocate for you, respect your decision, and ensure your voice is heard. You also want your team to comprise people who make you feel calm and grounded.
I had a client who had to gently ask her mother not to attend her birth because, during the birth of her first child, her mom was a ball of nerves and negatively impacted her experience. I had another client who chose her grandmother over her partner due to the nature of her relationship and the kind of support she needed to feel grounded during labor. Be sure to communicate your wishes and needs with your birth team members so they can best support you during this special time.
Questions to ask yourself about your birth team:
Do they fully support my birth preferences?
Do I feel like my voice is heard and my opinion is important to them?
Who on my birth team will help advocate for me when I am mid-contraction and cannot talk?
Who do I trust on my team to provide me with the information I need to make informed and grounded decisions? Who will help give me the time and space to make those decisions?
Who on my birth team will be by my side to comfort me and comfort me throughout my labor? Do they know what types of support I like? Are they knowledgeable about comfort measures?
This information is for educational purposes only and is not meant for diagnosis or treatment. Use of this information should be done in accordance with your healthcare provider.
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Meet the Author
Clara O'Rourke (she hers),
Holistic Doula & Childbirth Educator.
I am a researcher turned total birth nerd with a passion for supporting people birth in their full power! I guide people through their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum journey by helping them overcome fear or anxiety about birth, providing evidence-based information so they can make informed decisions, and ensuring they have everything they need to birth with confidence. Birth is sacred and it should be treated that way. I am committed to providing support for birth and beyond, regardless of a person's background, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or relationship status. También ofrezco mis servicios en español. I wish you and your growing family the brightest of beginnings!