Planning your ideal labor and delivery? Here's how to decide who should be with you when your baby makes his debut.

pregnant woman in hospital
Credit: Alloy Photography/Veer

For some moms-to-be, the ideal birth involves just one bystander: her partner. For others, the labor and delivery process is a the-more-the-merrier event, with family and friends getting an all-access pass to the delivery room. Regardless of what you want, however, hospital policies and well-meaning relatives might muck up your plans. So how do you decide who should be in the delivery room with you for your baby's debut? Consider this expert advice:

Check the policies. Most hospitals and birth centers have official policies about how many people can be in the room when a mother delivers. At the hospital where I worked as a labor and delivery nurse, three people (besides the mama-to-be, of course) could be present for the birth -- a policy that was based on the limited space in the labor and delivery rooms. That's a common number, but keep in mind that who those three people are can change throughout your labor.

"You can have more people involved in your experience if they take turns being with you," says M. Kathryn Buchanan, M.D., an ob-gyn with MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore. What's important, she stresses, is that "there needs to be enough room for your delivery team, including the obstetrician or midwife, your nurse, your baby's nurse, and your baby's doctor or provider to move easily around the room."

Talk it out. Once you know how many people are allowed to be in your delivery room at one time, you and your partner should have a serious talk about who (if anyone) you want sharing the experience with you. Will you hire a labor doula? Would your mom (or your partner's) be a helpful, supportive presence or add tension to the room?

Consider the possibility of a C-section. In your conversations about labor and delivery, don't forget about the possibility of a C-section birth. Whether you know that your baby is breech or you require an emergency surgery, most hospitals allow only one person in the surgical suite during a C-section, so discuss ahead of time who will support you through surgery.

Children aren't always a no-no. Surprisingly, kids may not automatically be excluded from the delivery room, especially if you're delivering at a birth center. Certified nurse-midwife Tina Alessi has worked with mothers who want their children to witness the birth of a sibling, and the biggest issue, she says, is "if they're small, they need some kind of orientation and some adult (not the father) supervising, in case there's some kind of emergency." If you're interested in that option, talk to your health-care team -- they may be more than happy to accommodate your request.

Prep for a birth photographer. Hiring a birth photographer? Find one who has worked with the facility where you're delivering and is familiar with its rules. Many hospitals now welcome birth photographers, although some prohibit the use of recorders or any filming at the exact moment of birth. "Be sure to tell the people who are photographing this special day that they need to be aware of where the delivery team is and not accidently come between the team and you," Dr. Buchanan says.

Reserve the right to change your mind. If you decide at the last minute that your mother is driving you nuts and can't be in the delivery room one more second, it's your right to change your mind. You don't have to be the one to hurt her feelings by kicking her out of the room; your nurse or doctor will be happy to do it for you. Simply pull your nurse aside and explain the situation to her.

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