Planning your baby's birth

Find advice on where to deliver your baby, who to invite, what to bring and what not to do when planning your baby's birth.

By Christine Langlois

Who to bring to the birth

Who to invite to the birth
Fathers need no invitation. It's normal practice for dads to coach their partners through labour as well as through prenatal classes and to be an active participant in the delivery. But if your partner is not available, invite someone else to fill that supporting role. A woman in labour needs an emotional bolster. As hospitals cut back on staff, you may find it helpful to bring your own support staff -- which should ensure that you'll get ice chips or a back rub when you need it.

A private, intimate delivery is the alternative chosen by many couples. However, some like to have a second support person even when the father can be present. How do you choose that special person who will help you and your partner bring your baby into the world? You might ask a friend or a relative -- maybe your own mother or sister. It's one of those jobs that can aptly be described as woman's work. Apart from their male partner, women tend to favour having other women around them as their active support during labour. But both partners must feel comfortable with the support person, since you will all be spending hours together in very close quarters. Your second support person should be someone who:

• is available day or night and able to take time off work, if required.

• will prepare for the role by reading about the process of labour and delivery, by meeting with your doctor or midwife, and by attending one or more prenatal classes with you.

• supports your expectations for labour and delivery, including your preferences on medication and medical intervention.

• will remain calm and communicative.

• will support the baby's father if he becomes anxious.

In hospitals, deliveries can be done by obstetricians, family physicians, or midwives. Several regions in Canada have or are developing midwifery legislation to regulate training and certification. If a couple chooses to use a midwife for delivery, she will also provide care during pregnancy and physical and emotional support throughout labour. Unless there is a medical emergency, she will deliver the baby.

Overall, almost all Canadian babies are born in hospitals. However, about one-third of babies delivered by midwives are born at home. If you're planning to have your baby at home, you might have a primary team of your partner, a midwife, and a doctor. The Canadian Paediatric Society does not recommend home births because, while most births are uneventful, unexpected emergencies do occur. In these emergencies, the survival of the mother and her infant may depend upon the expertise and equipment available only in a hospital.

Considering doulas
A doula is another possible addition to your team, although doulas are not yet covered by provincial Medicare. The original Greek word doula meant female slave, but today's practitioners of the profession define their role as one who mothers the mother since doulas provide emotional and physical support during labour.

Unlike midwives, doulas have no medical role and do not perform medical procedures of any kind. They make several home visits during the pregnancy and after the birth for help with breastfeeding or other baby concerns. Expect to pay between $300 and $600 for their services, although volunteers are often available for high-need mothers. Doulas are found across the country, and they are increasing in numbers. Contact Doulas of North America (dona.org) for information about doulas in your area.

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