Historically, human mothers have not given birth alone . An anthropological review found that 128 of the 129 cultures examined described childbirth rituals that surrounded a laboring mother with other women . Through the early part of the 20th century, western women labored at home in the company of other women with prior experience in childbirth; however, the subsequent shift to hospital birth in large labor wards usually isolated women from family and friends. More recently, women's demands have led to policy changes so the father of the baby, friends, or family members have returned to the laboring woman's bedside. Although laboring women have welcomed involvement of the father of the baby in the birth process, some have questioned whether he is fully prepared to be the primary guide through the pain and anxiety of childbirth.
A woman's view of her childbirth experience is influenced by several factors, and can change over time. Factors associated with a satisfactory childbirth experience include :
- High personal expectations that were realized
- Amount of caregiver support, as well as good rapport with the caregiver
- Ability to participate in decision making
Although not completely independent, these factors are as important as the effects of pain, pain relief measures, obstetrical interventions, labor characteristics, demographics, birth environment, and preparation.
Continuous labor support will be reviewed here. General issues about childbirth education and preparation for labor and delivery are discussed separately. (See "Preparation for labor and childbirth".)