World Health Organization | October 2016
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Research has consistently demonstrated that women greatly value and benefit from the presence of someone they trust during labor and childbirth to provide emotional, psychological and practical support and advice. Allowing and supporting the presence of a woman’s companion of choice during labor 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 labor and childbirth.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has today published an Evidence-to-Action brief that describes WHO recommendations on companions of choice during labor 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 labor companionship policies at the health care centers that include representatives of health care providers, facility managers and women themselves. Training on the issue of labor and companionship as well as on the importance of respecting women’s autonomy in making decisions will also be extremely important.