Delivery Room Don'ts for Family and Friends

Man comforting woman giving birth

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Have you been invited to a birth? Having the comforting presence of loved ones during childbirth can enhance the experience for the mother and make her feel more relaxed. The problem is that many attendees may have no idea about how to act or behave during this amazing moment.

Don't Get in the Way

Try to stay out of the way of the medical staff. If a nurse, midwife or doctor enters the room to do an exam or talk to the laboring mother, offer to leave. If that's not required or requested, be sure to move to the side.

Don't Overshare With Outsiders

Privacy, please. While it's tempting to go to the waiting room to share every little detail with those not invited in, the "outsiders," remember mom may not want every little detail shared. Always ask her before sharing any information, no matter how minute the issue seems.

Don't Eat

Don't bring food back to the delivery room. The lingering odors can cause nausea. If you do slip out for food, remember to brush your teeth so mom can't smell it.

Don't Make Comments About Her Contractions

Be careful not to make comments about the contractions and her pain level. In particular, comparing them to yours or to other mothers whose births you've attended. Inappropriate comments include, "Gee that was a big one!" and "That one wasn't nearly as big as the ones last hour."

Don't Chit-Chat

Be mindful and respectful of what the laboring mom needs. If she wants to talk she'll talk. Chances are there will be parts of labor where quiet and darkness are what she needs most.

Bring a book to read in the corner or nap if you can. Also, remember that everything you say she will remember in great detail. She is very sensitive at this time and even well-meaning jokes may miss their mark. Instead, remind her of what a great job she is doing and how you are grateful to have been invited to experience this with her.

Don't Take Unwanted Photos

While you may want to snap great photos of the ongoings of the birth, be sure you have mom's permission and know the rules of the hospital or birth center. Let her preferences guide your camera's lens.

Don't Steal Her Thunder

Allow the new parents to tell everyone the good news. If she asks you to go fetch someone from the waiting room, play a game and refuse to tell them anything, not even how big the baby is, not even if it's a boy or girl. This allows the new parents to get to see the looks of joy in others faces first.

A good thing to say is, "They'd love you to join them to welcome their baby." Then, tight-lip it back to the room with the anxious guest.

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By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.