What to Know About Continuous Support During Childbirth

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 30, 2022
5 min read

If you are a pregnant woman nearing your due date, you may be starting to think about continuous support for childbirth.

Many expecting mothers choose people to provide them with continuous support during their labor and delivery. This support usually lasts from the beginning of labor to delivery, and sometimes even extends to after birth.

As you look forward to your upcoming delivery, you may be wondering who you should have by your side during labor. 

During childbirth, continuous support may be provided by anyone. When choosing a support person, or support people, it’s important to consider your own unique situation and preferences, so you can decide what is best for you.

Your partner. Often, a woman may choose to have her partner present during labor and delivery. Although your partner may not have medical knowledge or birthing experience, their intimate relationship with you can help provide emotional support. If you are planning to have a natural birth, your partner can also help you relax and ease the pain of contractions.

A family member. Having a close family member to provide support can be encouraging for many women. Usually, a close female family member is preferred, such as a mother or sister. If this family member has given birth before, they can also utilize their knowledge and experience to help you.

Female friends. Close friends can be excellent emotional supporters and encouragers during labor and delivery. Similarly to having a family member with you, if your friend has given birth before, their experience can help advise you.

A midwife. Some women choose to have a midwife deliver their baby instead of a doctor, or may even have both present. Usually, a pregnant woman will meet with a midwife throughout the pregnancy, and the midwife will keep track of the pregnancy and provide ongoing support for pregnant mothers. 

While a doctor is usually not present during a woman’s labor, a midwife can be there for the whole process. A midwife can not only provide emotional support and encouragement to the laboring mother, but can also keep track of vitals and make sure labor is moving along safely. The midwife can then help you deliver your baby and can intervene if there are medical issues. 

There are many types of midwives to choose from. Most are usually also registered nurses, but it's important you do research to figure out what type of midwife best suits you.

A doula. Though doulas are not as familiar a topic as midwives, many find them to be the most helpful support partner during childbirth. Many women locate a doula during their pregnancy and work with them to create a safe birth plan. A doula can provide pregnant women resources to help decide birthing preferences and prepare for labor and delivery.

While you labor, the doula’s primary goal is to help you follow your preferred birthing method, including helping other support people present be more involved. Keep in mind that a doula does not provide medical support, but they are familiar with concerning signs during labor and will know when medical intervention is necessary.

Giving birth is an intense event, especially for first-time mothers. Continuous support throughout labor and delivery is not a requirement for giving birth, but many women have found several benefits to designating a support person to help them.

  • Having emotional support and encouragement during childbirth can help relieve discomfort and anxiety and foster excitement for the outcome. 
  • Having continuous support helps women feel more positively about their overall birthing experience. 
  • A support person can help you move physically during labor and delivery to get into more comfortable positions. 
  • Support people can provide you with information to help your labor and delivery go smoothly. Having someone with knowledge on breathing techniques, laboring positions, and delivery positions can help if you feel panicked or overwhelmed during any point of the childbirth process.
  • If you are planning a home birth, having a midwife or doula present can help you stay safe. Midwives are able to provide medical intervention, and doulas are trained to recognize when it is needed.
  • If you are planning a hospital birth, having a doula present can help eliminate unnecessary medical intervention like unplanned cesarean sections, epidurals, and pitocin induction. 
  • During a hospital birth, a familiar face can help provide comfort in an unfamiliar environment.
  • Doulas can encourage your partner, friends, or family members to support you better. They can provide instruction to motivate other support members that may be inexperienced.
  • If you use a doula or a midwife, they can help you make the transition to breastfeeding, if you choose to breastfeed. They can also monitor you and your baby as you recover and help inform and assist you with the healing process.

Having a person providing continuous support is not for everyone. Most expecting mothers have concerns about how designating a support person can affect the childbirth process.

  • If you are concerned with modesty, or privacy, you may opt not to have a support person present.
  • Some women may be concerned that their partner won't be able to handle being present. For most, childbirth is not an everyday occurrence, and it is certainly not a clean one. If you are concerned that your partner is a bit squeamish, it is okay if you don’t want them in the room. You may opt to just have them present during labor, or after the birth instead.
  • Even though you meet with your doula before labor, you may not actually be comfortable with their presence once the time comes to give birth. 
  • You may feel crowded during childbirth if too many people are in the room. If it’s important to you to have multiple people providing support, placing a limit on the number of supporters at your side and ensuring that everyone is on the same page can help things feel less chaotic.
  • Having an additional service, like a doula or midwife, does cost money and may not be affordable for everyone. Although it is their job to follow your desired plan, things don't often go the way you want, and you may feel that the midwife or doula has negatively impacted your experience.

Childbirth can be a life-changing experience, so it’s important to take time to consider if you want continuous support during labor and delivery and who you may want to provide it. 

You can choose your partner, family members, or friends to be by your side, or even hire a midwife or doula to help you through the process.

Although there are several benefits to having continuous support, whether or not to use continuous support is ultimately up to you.