Pregnancy and you blog

Delivery room: Who'll join you for the birth?

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. June 18, 2013

Back in the old days, women labored alone — or sometimes in the same room as another laboring woman — while dads paced in the waiting room. Delivery room attendance was limited to the doctor and nurses. My, how times have changed!

Today, dads or partners expect to be present during labor and delivery. Also present might be grandparents, in-laws, siblings, friends, doulas and other interested persons. Then you can expect your obstetric provider, one or two nurses, and perhaps a resident, a medical student or a student nurse, as well as a team of providers for the baby. In an informal poll of nurses at my own institution, the average number of people attending a vaginal delivery seems to be about 15. That can be one crowded room!

I'm beginning to wonder, though, if we're settling into a time between the extremes of no one present and everyone present. Despite the large groups in some labor and delivery rooms, I've noticed a downsizing in my own practice.

For some women and their partners, birth is becoming a more intimate experience. More couples are spending those first important minutes with their new baby alone. Family and friends are invited in after the baby has had some skin-to-skin bonding with mom and perhaps has nursed for the first time.

Whether you'd like a crowd in the delivery room or a more private experience, make sure that you're comfortable with your support people. You should trust that your birth will be like Vegas — what happens in the birthing room stays in the birthing room. You don't want to see stories of your labor and how many naughty words you used appearing on Facebook. You might also want to avoid inviting anyone who has a strong personality or definite opinions on your labor and delivery, especially if those opinions differ from yours.

If you're concerned that someone you'd rather not have around you during labor or delivery will show up anyway, ask your nurse to prevent the person from coming in. Labor and delivery nurses have plenty of experience guarding patient privacy — and, if necessary, practicing crowd control.

It's also important to set ground rules. Discuss your partner's role in labor and delivery, and decide whether your partner might need a support person of his or her own. Be firm with friends and loved ones about your expectations. If you and your partner want to be alone with the baby for the first few hours after the birth, let people know that you'll tell them when it's time to visit.

What are your stories of friends and loved ones in the delivery room? Please share! You can also follow me on Twitter @RNMarMurry.

June 18, 2013