Delivery rooms can be busy places. Aside from your partner there are several people with different roles to play in supporting you through the birth of your child. Some are tasked with ensuring that you deliver a healthy baby with as few complications as possible. Others are there to support you with the delivery by providing pain relief, encouragement, or to document the beautiful moments where your new arrival enters their new world for the first time. Who are they and what exactly can you expect from them?
Obstetrician and midwife
These are the two main birth professionals. They are responsible for you and your baby’s safety during the birth, and for helping you perform the delivery itself. Obstetricians specialize in female reproductive health, pregnancy and the delivery of babies. They are the doctors who oversee birth and will intervene if there are complications. They are qualified to perform C-sections – emergency and elective – and will be on standby to deal with any birth emergencies once your labour starts, even if you choose to use a midwife for the actual birth. Midwives are qualified nurses who specialize in pregnancy care and childbirth. They tend to advocate for natural vaginal birth and are experts in handling normal pregnancies and births. Both an obstetrician and midwife will monitor you over the course of your pregnancy in antenatal appointments, making recommendations for the delivery based on you and your baby’s health and the risk level of your pregnancy. Midwives provide a lot of support in the delivery room and will be a near constant presence throughout your labour. By contrast, obstetricians will usually come in occasionally to check on your labour progression as they’re often treating multiple patients at the same time.
Anaesthetist and doula
The anaesthetist is your pain management specialist. If you request or arrange for an epidural, they will administer it. If you first decide during labour to request an epidural they will first determine if it’s safe at that point in your labour to do. Aside from epidurals, anaesthetists have a range of pain management options they can offer. Your primary care provider will discuss these with you. Doulas offer support throughout your labour, but are not medically trained. They often have wide ranging skillsets, and some are even midwives too. The doula who supported my partner and I, for example, is also studied biokinetics. Doulas have been associated with fewer interventions during birth. Doulas can be a particularly valuable source of support to mothers-to-be who are dealing with pregnancy and birth on their own. Birth photographer Birth photographers are masters at capturing the first moments of your newborn’s life outside the womb. A good birth photographer will not only capture the moments of birth but will also photograph your journey through labour. These professionals are deeply respectful of the bodies they photograph and make a point of keeping photos tasteful. They take photos that capture the intimacy of birth while preserving the modesty of their subjects. Having a strong human support system during pregnancy and at your birth is a great way of empowering you to take on the birth of your child with confidence. Birth is not something anyone should have to do alone and these consummate professionals will help carry you through labour’s toughest moments. – Jan de Lange