Should I Have Guests in the Labor and Delivery Room?

Who's in the delivery room is entirely up to you

couple looking at their newborn baby for the first time
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The labor and delivery room during childbirth used to be restricted to the expectant mother and medical professionals. Much has changed over the past few decades, with some women choosing to forgo the hospital altogether in favor of a birthing center or home birth experience. If you decide to have your baby anywhere but home, however, you may be limited in how many people are allowed to join you during the birth.

For most hospitals, three people (besides medical personnel) is a fairly standard number for delivery room guests. Once you've established any policies in place, then you can decide whom to add to the guest list. Here are a few suggestions about who you might consider:

Your Partner or Spouse: Yes

Unless they're really squeamish or need to be available to care for younger children, this is usually a no-brainer. Since they're most likely to be closest involved with the baby on the way, it seems fitting they should be there to offer support and should be among the first to welcome the new arrival.

Mother Versus Mother-in-Law: Eh, Maybe

This is a personal decision and depends strongly on the nature of your relationship with your mother or mother-in-law. Your partner should have some input into the decision, but it's ultimately up to you. Put it this way: Anything or anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable will have a negative impact on your birth experience. Don't feel bad about saying no to someone who's going to give you stress, even if that person is your mom.

Other Children: It Depends

Having your older children at a birth is a very personal decision. If they want to be there and are old enough, you can help prepare them for what to expect. This is a tricky one and isn't for every child, but some older siblings might like the idea of having a role to play in the new family member's arrival. Parents, aunts, etc. Each should be considered individually.

A friend or friends: Maybe!

A close friend can be a real blessing at a birth. The relationship is already there and she might even have some prior experience with her own births. This can be a great thing if she agrees with your philosophy of birth.

If she has questions about how your birth plan is laid out, or if she doesn't have any birth experience, bring her to a childbirth class with you. Consider, though, how you'll explain including a friend in the delivery room if you've said "no" to other family members. It's ultimately up to you, but be prepared for the inevitable questions.

In addition to family and friends, many women choose to invite a professional labor supporter to their births. Studies have shown that doulas can help decrease labor interventions.

Childbirth educators are also good invites. You have a relationship and they have knowledge of birth and your wishes. Childbirth educators may or may not have any first-hand experience assisting at a birth.

Making the Invitation

If you're considering inviting someone, have the conversation in person. Let them know why you've invited them. Tell them what they bring and know that they can still say no. Be prepared to give them time to answer, especially if the invitation may come as a surprise. 

When Someone Invites Themselves

Sometimes, someone just assumes that they are invited. If this is not someone you want to invite to your birth, be clear, and say no. The longer you let it go, the worse the hurt feelings in the end. Blame hospital or birth center policy, say you want to be alone if you want to avoid drama, but don't feel pressured to have unwanted guests in the delivery room. You'll be a little too busy to manage problematic family members.

Rescinding an Invite

Sometimes you've invited someone to the birth and as time goes on you or your partner realize that it was a bad decision or simply that it is no longer the right decision. Rather than let the odd feeling worry you about your birth say something, sooner rather than later. Explain that you've had a change of heart. There may be hurt feelings, but if you're honest the hurt will go away. New babies have a way of bringing out the best in people.

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