Should Grandmothers Be Invited Into the Delivery Room?

Decisions can be hard to accept, but grandparents have no choice

grandmother in delivery room
Lillian Elaine Wilson | Getty Images

One person has the right to decide whether a grandmother will be invited into the delivery room, and that person is the mother. The father can, of course, put in his two cents worth, but it's really up to the expectant mother.

Many grandparents have been privileged to be invited into the delivery room several times, and many say that there is no greater thrill than seeing a grandchild born. But the procedure is not designed for the pleasure of a grandparent.

It's all about the comfort and well-being of the mother. So if you are invited into the inner sanctum, take it in stride. 

A Word About Grandfathers

Grandmothers aren't the only grandparents to have witnessed the birth of a grandchild. Some grandfathers have had the privilege, too. If the mother is especially close to her father, she may want him there for the birth. Often it is possible for a grandfather to be positioned near the head of the bed where the view is limited. Needless to say, however, many mothers aren't comfortable with extra males in the delivery room, and grandfathers should not be hurt if excluded.

When You're Not Invited

If you're expecting a new grandbaby and you haven't been asked if you would like to be in the delivery room, assume that you are not invited in. Here are some factors that may be at play:

  • If your daughter-in-law hasn't invited either grandmother, it may be because she's not comfortable with her mother in the delivery room, but can't handle the repercussions of choosing her mother-in-law over her mother.
  • If you are the mother and you have a history of panicking in stressful situations or trying to take charge or talking too much, you may not be invited in even though you have perhaps the best claim.
  • You may be passed over for delivery room duty because you are needed to care for your other grandchild or grandchildren. That's a great assignment, too! And it's wonderful to know that you are trusted with this assignment at such an important time. 
  • Some hospitals limit the number of people in delivery.
  • If a difficult delivery is expected, or a complication anticipated, the hospital may nix any extra persons in the delivery room. Hospitals typically limit the number of people who can be present during a C-section. The number of persons allowed can be none, one or two.

Be Prepared for Changes in the Plan

Even if you have been invited into the delivery room, don't rely on being there. Besides the aforementioned complications that could restrict access, some moms simply change their minds. There are also the logistics to consider, especially if you are a long-distance grandparent. Babies arrive on their own schedules. 

Sometimes grandmothers who were not invited into the delivery room ahead of time end up being asked in. Perhaps the labor went on for a long time, or a designated support person was unable to make it or proved unequal to the task.

Know the Plan

If you are going to be in the delivery room, you'll need to know the birth plan, especially what kind of atmosphere will make the mother most comfortable, and what she plans to do about pain relief.

Attending a childbirth class with the expectant mother is a great idea if she invites you. If not, you can take a class online. Just be sure that you are taking a class that is aligned with the mom's philosophy. If nothing else, you'll get a refresher on the stages of labor, the conditions that could call for a C-section, and the pain relief choices that are available.

If you were medicated for the births of your children, as many grandmothers were, you may not know what to expect. You might want to watch some birth videos to gauge how you will react, but be aware: Your reactions may be entirely different when it is your own grandchild being born.

If you are invited to be in the delivery room, clarify what your role should be. Are you expected to actively participate or provide silent support?

Sometimes grandparents are invited to photograph or video the birth. If this is your role, be sure you know how to operate the equipment and be informed about what type of documentation the couple would like. Some couples don't mind recording the nitty-gritty of the birth. Some only want "pretty" pictures. Also be certain to stay out of the way of all medical personnel. 

If You Have Doubts

What if you've been invited to the delivery but aren't sure you want to be there? If you have a phobia about hospitals or medical procedures, or if you don't trust yourself to be calm, you should make a decision based on what's best for the mother and baby. If you are unsure how you are going to react, don't rob yourself of this incomparable experience. Go ahead and give it a shot, especially if there will be someone else in the waiting room -- a sister, aunt, or other grandmothers -- who can step in if you are overwhelmed by the scene.

How to Help

The grandmother's role in the birthing room is to provide help when it is requested. Her role may end up being quite different from the original plan. For example, the couple may have envisioned being together through the entire labor, but the father may need frequent breaks, especially if it is a long labor. 

Words of encouragement are always welcome. "You're doing a great job." "I'm so proud of you." 

Once the pushing phase begins, the mood in the delivery room becomes more serious. Grandmothers should be responsive to the mother's needs but try not to be intrusive. Once the baby is born, it's important to wait for an invitation before you approach or touch.

In Case of Unexpected Circumstances

If unforeseen circumstances occur, it's important to remember that the expectant parents have the right to make their own decisions. You can offer an opinion only if asked. You can offer support and comfort if comfort is needed. 

If You Are in the Waiting Room

If you are invited to come to the hospital for the birth but not invited into the delivery room, count your blessings.

 Some new parents don't want the extended family at the hospital at all. In fact, some new parents request no visitors for the first few days or weeks so that the mom and dad can bond with the baby in peace -- what some call a babymoon. And, yes, grandparents have to accept that decision, too.

If it turns out that the waiting room is your spot, stay in it. Don't hang out in the hallway or go into the delivery room to "check on" things. If you are needed, someone will come to get you.