First times

Being at the birth of a baby

Location: UK
Audience: Junior doctors Medical students
Updated: Tuesday 20 July 2021
Topics: Your wellbeing
Dr Michael Peters offers advice to medical students attending the birth of a baby for the first time.

The birth of a child is one of the landmark occasions in the life of a parent. Having the opportunity to be present at a birth is both a privilege and a learning experience.

It is so much more than just a physical event and being present could stir strong feelings within you. You might also find it difficult to define the part that you should play as a medical student.

You might feel that you are in the way in the delivery room, so it is important to establish a role for yourself.

Will you be offering emotional or practical support to the parents, or assisting the doctor or midwife? Although you will need to be aware of the technical side of things, you will probably not be able to insulate yourself from the emotional charge that will be in the room.

The mother will be in pain; she might be crying; there will be joy tinged with tears.

It is possible that you will feel distressed by the pain that the mother is going through. There might be complications during the birth, or the baby could have an abnormality.

And, of course, you might be anxious about the possibility that it could be you who is performing the delivery next time. As a student, how can you best prepare yourself for this situation?

It is helpful, whenever possible, to meet the parents before the delivery, so that you are not a stranger in the room during the birth. Meeting with the midwife or doctor who will be carrying out the delivery will also help. That way, you will be part of the team and better able to support the parents.

It is vital to respect the wishes and emotions of the parents at all times. If there are technical questions that you need to ask the doctor or midwife in charge, it might be better to raise them after the delivery.

To debrief, you might find it helpful to meet with the mother, father and new baby some time after the birth. After all, you have been involved in a life changing experience. You might also find it helpful to speak with one of the doctors or midwives and hear their views of the event.

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