Sexual and reproductive health

Companion of choice during labour and childbirth for improved quality of care

Husband holding the hand of his wife during the later stages of labour.
WHO /Antonio Suarez Weise

6 October 2016: Efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity have focused on improving provision of and access to childbirth in health care facilities and, as a result, institutional births are increasing throughout many low- and middle-income countries. With this increase, emphasis is now shifting to improving the quality of care provided during facility-based childbirth, which is an integral component of improving maternal and newborn health.

Research has consistently demonstrated that women greatly value and benefit from the presence of someone they trust during labour and childbirth to provide emotional, psychological and practical support and advice. Allowing and supporting the presence of a woman’s companion of choice during labour and childbirth is an effective intervention that is respectful of women’s autonomy and agency and can be an important aspect of improving quality of care during labour and childbirth.

WHO has today published an Evidence-to-Action brief that describes WHO recommendations on companions of choice during labour and childbirth. It touches on the guiding principles behind this intervention and on who can act as such a companion. It looks at some of the barriers to its implementation and discusses what will be needed to ensure its successful introduction and implementation.

In order to succeed, the brief calls for a participatory approach to be adopted to introduce labour companionship policies at the health care centres that include representatives of health care providers, facility managers and women themselves. Training on the issue of labour and companionship as well as on the importance of respecting women’s autonomy in making decisions will also be extremely important.

Related links

Implementation of labour companionship – experiences from South Africa