How Many People Can You Have in the Delivery Room?

Just delivered baby on their mother's chest in a hospital

Photo © Karen Strauss / Getty Images

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Today's labor and delivery room is typically open to more than just the person giving birth and their partner. Many families choose to bring in other people, such as a doula, a friend, the baby's grandparents, and more. How many people you can have in the delivery room will largely depend on your hospital's policy and your personal preferences.

In some facilities, the policy may also vary depending on the room you are in and the type of birth you are having. Some rooms might accommodate bigger families. Remember that hospital policy is in place for your safety and to ensure the hospital can deliver you and your baby the best care.

Typically, you can plan to have up to three people in the delivery room with you. Some hospitals may allow less and some may allow more. Check with your healthcare provider about what is allowed in the hospital or birth center where you plan to deliver. In most cases, healthcare providers encourage having at least one support person present.

Hospital Policies

Some hospitals allow a different number of people in the room during labor versus when the baby is actually being born. This makes sense since during the birth more of the available space will be taken up with hospital personnel.

You or the hospital staff may also ask some (or all) of your guests to leave during certain procedures, such as vaginal exams or the placement of an epidural. This is definitely a question to ask when you are taking a hospital tour so that you'll know what to expect.

Visitors During Other Procedures

Some hospitals will allow you to have one person, such as a doula or your partner, stay with you during the administration of an epidural, while some will not. Hospital policy may vary widely even in the same city.

The vast majority of hospitals only allow one person in the operating room during a c-section. Some are a bit more lenient if the second person is a doula or another medical professional. Other people may not be allowed if you require general anesthesia.

Who Counts As an Extra Person?

Some hospitals and places of birth also do not count your partner and/or your doula as an additional person in the room. This means you could have more people with you than it seems. Again, this can vary from hospital to hospital and is something you should ask when you take a tour.

Home Birth and Birth Center Policies

If you are planning to deliver at a birth center or at home, you will want to talk to your care provider about their policies and/or recommendations. Some birth centers have limits but others do not. At a home birth, the limits may be only on what your space will comfortably handle. That said, just because you don't have limits, doesn't mean that you need to fill the space to the gills.

There are many things to think about before inviting people, particularly whether or not to include your children (who are often not permitted in a hospital setting, but may be in a birth center and of course can be present for a home birth).

Making the Decision

While childbirth is a beautiful, momentous occasion, it can also be stressful, painful, and deeply personal. Labor and delivery can also last for many hours—and often does not go exactly as planned. Occasionally, complications occur that require medical interventions.

If the reality of your birth deviates from your plan, consider if having guests there will feel stressful or supportive. Think about how will you will feel about them seeing you at your most vulnerable.

Consider how any guests you may invite will react under various possible circumstances—and how their reactions may affect you. This is particularly important when weighing if a child should be present. Will they be able to tolerate you being in pain? How will they cope if a complication arises? Will they need someone to care for them? If your birth goes longer than expected, will they be able to be present in a positive way for the long haul?

A Word From Verywell

Having extra people at your birth can be wonderful, but it can also backfire. This all depends on your personality, your relationship with these people, your comfort level with them, and how your birth progresses. Only you know which people will feel right to you to include.

Aim to invite people who will be supportive advocates, not just spectators. Also, you will want to be sure that you will feel comfortable letting loose, making noise, and experiencing bodily functions in front of anyone you include. As Alice Turner, a doula and childbirth educator in Atlanta, says: "Even the most well-meaning visitor can impact your labor."

1 Source
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  1. Ecker JL, Minkoff HL. Laboring alone? Brief thoughts on ethics and practical answers during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemicAm J Obstet Gynecol MFM. 2020;2(3):100141. doi:10.1016/j.ajogmf.2020.100141

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