This is the third post in our Ask the Doulas series.We have gathered a variety of doulas to share wisdom gained from their experience working with hundreds of families.

If you are planning to have visitors during your labor and birth or in those first few days after your newborn arrives

then reading through these tips is a must. The management of visitors is a task usually left up to the partner and it is much harder than many couples predict. Emotions are running high and many visitors don’t know what exactly to do in order to support the new family.

Let’s hear from the doulas

We posed the following question to our experienced panel of doulas:

“What is your best tip for managing visitors during labor and birth?”

Know your visitor plan 100% before birth begins. Take real time to discuss this together. Do the two of you want any visitors if early labor is slow? No visitor? Someone to stay the whole time? If she wants her mom there the whole birth and you’re really uncomfortable with that, trust me, you need to discuss this ahead of time. Also have a plan for visitors after birth. Mom will be exhausted and too many visitors can detract from much needed rest. Know how to gently usher people out. – Melissa Schultz

My best tip is to tell only a bare minimum of people that you are going to hospital... like only let the person taking care of older siblings or pets know that the time has come. Other than that? Unplug your devices (don't text or call anyone) and connect with the birthing person and the baby. – Helen Scammell

Discuss with the mother what your desires are for visitors during labor. Be sure to send reports to family members who may be in the waiting room. Ask your doula to help manage the visitor traffic and let everyone know ahead of time who will be in the delivery when the time actually comes for baby to make an appearance. – Daphne Reynolds

NO visitors during the Golden Hour. All visitors are to call first before coming - no random show ups. – Denise Bolds

Read the room. If her mom keeps talking about current events while mom is clearly trying to work through contractions then it’s time for grandma to leave. – Melissa Colatosi

Talk about it BEFORE labor! Set the expectations with family and friends, and if you're worried your boundaries won't be respected, remember that you don't have to tell everyone/anyone that labor has begun. – Rebekah Gilley

If you're not comfortable being the gatekeeper, ask the nurse for help. They're usually happy to be the no-person. – Katie Rohs

Discuss beforehand who is welcome and let staff know. They usually don’t have a problem being the door keeper or bouncer. – Sheri Walker

During prenatal meetings, I encourage clients to think about who they want to attend. If they feel any one is going to disagree with their decision or they could not open up in front of them during labor, then they may want to rethink the decision. The partner can be the door man per say. I encourage couples have a secret word for when mom wants visitors to leave. And their partners usually have clever ideas to get them moving on their way. Know what you want from birth and how you both want to feel. Use that to gauge who should attend. Have conversations with the people that want to be there but you both feel would not fit the vibe of your birth space. Let them know your wishes and when it will be ok for them to come to visit afterwards. During birth, be the gatekeeper of your partner’s birth space. Keep our those who were not invited and if someone who is there becomes disruptive or unsupportive, ask them to step out of the room and then politely ask them to leave. It’s your job to guard the sanctity of your partner’s space! – Steffanie Thomas

One of the best roles you can take on during labor is protecting the space. It's ok to tell family that the best place for them to support your partner is from their homes. – Brigid Vance

Try and limit the number of people coming in to visit you, especially during labor and immediately postpartum. Visits during labor will only distract your partner from the important task at hand. Continue to avoid any unnecessary visits for several hours after the baby arrives. Mama needs time to unwind and come back to reality and those first few hours are awkward. You will both be overwhelmed by the experience and baby and mama will be working hard fumbling around trying to learn how to breastfeed. Set some firm boundaries way ahead of time so that overbearing friends and family members understand what your expectations are. – Jenn Smith

Talk to Mom about it beforehand and stick to that if anyone else comes in say I'm sorry only ____ is allowed. - Krystal Martin

Make sure they're there to support your partner and pay close attention to how the birthing person interacts with the visitors. If you sense that they are uncomfortable in any way, you should ask them to give you a little break. - Rebecca Shelton

Summary

Experienced doulas tend to agree that discussing preferences and setting expectations ahead of time is important for successful management of visitors during labor and birth. Support people have the capability of protecting the space and should make this a priority.

More in the series: