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Most of the time, welcoming a life is a beautiful, amazing moment. I understand the urge to want to share that with family and friends, and we’re good about accommodating delivery room guests. But I’ve had expecting moms ask if they can have upwards of 10 people in the delivery room with them.
I’ve seen women invite parents, in-laws, siblings, aunts, cousins and best friends. I guess their thought is the more the merrier.
Before you gather a support squad to witness your baby’s debut, consider these tips and safety guidelines for the delivery room.
Check your hospital’s delivery room policy
Every hospital has its own rules about how many people are allowed in the delivery room. Many only allow two or three people to be with mom. You may want to double check if your partner and doula count in that number. Some hospitals allow a certain number of people to be in the room during labor, but fewer during the actual delivery.
We allow up to seven people to be on the guest list, but only five people to be in the room at any time during labor and delivery. Our rooms are pretty large, so while five people can be a tight fit, it’s doable. Hopefully everyone likes each other! We do ask everyone to step out of the room during exams and the epidural.
If you want your older child to see the birth of their new baby brother or sister, ask for your hospital’s policy about allowing children in the room. We allow children in the room as long as there is an adult other than the expecting mother present to take care of them.
Talk to your doctor, midwife and nurses about what they expect from your visitors, and listen to what they say. They’re thinking of your comfort and safety. We want to be able to deliver the safest care possible while you are able to have your loved ones close.
Cesarean sections, however, are a whole other story. Most hospitals, including ours, allow only one person in the operating room with you. The rest of your family can stay in your room or the waiting room. We’ll keep them updated on what’s happening.
Prepare your loved ones for labor and delivery
The day you give birth is one of the most important days of your life. Think carefully about who you want to share it with. If you’re concerned that your mother-in-law or another family member will add tension, don’t invite them. Feel free to blame it on the doctor’s policy!
Once you’ve decided who you want in the room, lay down the ground rules. Don’t be shy about expressing what you’re comfortable with. Do you want everyone near the head of the bed, or are you fine with some people getting an up-close look at the “miracle of life”? Do you want everyone there during labor, but only your partner present during and immediately after the birth?
It’s also a good idea to give everyone a rundown of your birth plan. This way, they’re not questioning your decisions on the big day.
Ask your doctor or midwife about any rules your loved ones need to know about. For example, when we roll in the delivery cart, it will be covered with a blue sterile sheet. We’ll ask everyone in the room to stay back and not touch anything blue. We find most people intuitively know when to get out of the way, but it never hurts to give a warning.
If at any point during labor and delivery you change your mind and want everyone to leave, just tell us. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings; we’re happy to take the blame and do it for you.
Keep your loved ones safe in the delivery room
I’ve had the biggest of the biggest men pass out and hit the floor during delivery. It may sound funny, but it can be serious. I’ve seen one dad pass out during delivery and need to go to the emergency room. Another family member had a cardiac event.
I’ve gotten into the habit of quickly scanning the delivery room to make sure everyone looks OK. I usually can tell if they’re feeling hesitant or beginning to sweat. I’ll prop a chair next to them and tell them to sit down if they need to.
I tell delivery room guests there’s no shame in the game; I’ve had pro football players hit the ground! Hearing this usually makes people chuckle and feel more at ease about needing to sit down.
Set rules for after birth
Think about who you want in the room after you give birth. Those first few hours of bonding are precious, and you’ll likely be exhausted. Are you going to feel up to entertaining?
I know everyone is excited to meet the new baby, but they can wait. Tell your partner and healthcare team if you don’t want visitors, or if you only want specific people to visit. Let them be the enforcers!
Childbirth is one of the most important stops along the journey of motherhood. It’s up to you whether you want it to be a private experience between you and your partner or a more public event surrounded by family and friends. Neither choice is wrong. But a little planning will allow you to focus on what matters most: welcoming your new family member.