To the father or birth partner who is happy to go with the flow and listen to what the doctor says.
To the father or birth partner that believes that a doula is a bit on the “alternative” side … a little hippyish or woowoo.
Have you discussed with your pregnant partner why she might like a doula onboard?
Do you know what a doula has to offer and how it can be of benefit to both of you?
Do you feel a little threatened in terms of your role during labor?
Let me share that the role of the doula and your role during pregnancy and labour are both different. Although there are some similarities, bringing both together can only make for a very strong and powerful support team for the birthing woman.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what you want for your partner?
Let’s just be clear, a doula will not come in and start burning sage smudge sticks and break out into chanting and dancing. There is no magic or sorcery involved. The role of a doula is to provide non-medical assistance to both you and your labouring partner. This is achieved by providing a continuity of care in the form of physical and emotional support and guidance.
A doula brings with her experience and knowledge of the birthing process. She is familiar with what each stage might ‘look’ like by observing the laboring woman. A doula is also an advocate for you the couple, to help you achieve the outcomes that you would like as you bring your baby earth-side. A doula will also assist with communication between yourself, your partner and the medical staff. A doula will also provide you both with evidence-based information so that in the end, all the choices that you both make come from a solid foundation of knowledge.
As the father or birth partner you are free to take on whatever role you feel comfortable to take on during the birthing process. The main and very valuable aspect is that you know all the ins and outs of your partner. You know her fears you know what her beliefs are, and you know her personality. You are also very emotionally invested in both your partner and your baby. You love them both with all your heart. You want to protect them and do everything you can for both. These are all very wonderful things to have, to know and bring into the birth, but bringing your baby earth-side can be a very emotional and exhausting experience. With all that emotion behind you, it is not difficult to become overwhelmed and forget what to do or even know how to cope with seeing your partner in pain. This is where a doula can support you both.
It is well researched that having a doula to support your partner during her labor, will generally increase the chances of a positive birth experience for her and yourself. It has been shown that the length of labour is reduced. The need for pain medication is reduced. It reduces the need for instrumental delivery and it decreases the chance of cesarean birth. The presence of a doula may also help to make you feel more confident with how you support your partner. A doula will always support you and encourage you to be the best support that you can be. Although there are many things that a doula does, her main roles can be broken up into three areas, the provision of continuity of care, communication and creating a sacred space.
Continuity of Care
By having some meetings during pregnancy with your chosen doula, she can provide you with guidance and evidence-based information. She can help you to formulate a birth plan that is tailored to your partner’s individual needs and your wishes. You will have access to her full library of books, videos and any other information that she has available for you. She can provide you up-to-date information about medical procedures, medications and any other information. You can then go to your antenatal healthcare providers with confidence armed with the right questions to ask so that you can obtain all the information that you will need to make informed choices.
Depending on which avenue you choose in terms of the public system, private, shared care with a GP or an independent midwife, sometimes your partner will not see the same person. A doula is a constant and will be there during the pregnancy as required and throughout the birth until your baby is born. In the hospital setting it is unfortunate but the staff does not have the time to spend with a labouring woman to provide that constant support that is so important. A doula will also be available after the birth to ensure that you are all doing well and refer you on to other professionals should the need arise.
Open and honest communication between you and your partner are very important. You both need to be upfront about your thoughts, feelings, wants and needs during this time. When you both have a picture of what you would like the birth of your baby to look like, you can discuss this with your Doula. Even if both of you have no idea, your doula will provide you with as much evidence-based information about what your options are and will point you in the right direction for you to be able to make your own decisions and choices about what kind of birth you both want to achieve.
Your doula may also encourage you to attend independent childbirth classes that are not run by the hospitals. This is to provide you with a broad base of knowledge that is often not covered in standard hospital-based education. A doula will always present you with various choices that are available.
A doula will sit down with you and help to create a birth plan that is tailored to your personal goals and outcomes. Here is where it is important for you the father / birth partner to voice any concerns about your role in the birth. To get the most out of your experience, let your doula know what you are comfortable to do and what you do not want. This will help her to give you the best support possible. For example, if you are happy to physically help your partner while she births, your doula will show you various techniques to use such as massage or acupressure points. If you get tired, she can take over for you while you catch your breath and re-energise. You do not have to do it all yourself. How hands-on would you like her to be? Would you prefer that she coached you instead? Discuss these things with your partner and your doula.
A doula can act as a buffer between both of you and hospital staff. She will champion your wishes to the staff. She can create reminders for you both in the face of having to make decisions to give you the space and time to make decisions. Your doula will help arm you with questions to ask your antenatal caregivers/hospital staff, so that you get all the information you require to make the choices best for you. Your doula can also serve as a sounding board as you throw ideas and thoughts around while making decisions.
Providing a Sacred Space
Another of the important roles of a doula is to ensure that the surrounding environment is quiet, dark and calm for the birthing woman. She also promotes privacy and ensures that dignity is maintained for the birthing woman where possible. A doula will help to create a sacred space that is conducive for your partner’s natural instincts to kick in while laboring. A space that feels comfortable and safe for your partner to bring your baby earth-side with a sense of empowerment and a sense of calm, happiness and elation. This may mean that she talks to staff requesting quiet, may turn most lights off and put signs up on your birthing room door to remind staff to maintain a quiet setting where possible. She may encourage you to bring some things from home that may make your partner more comfortable while birthing. Your doula will also bring things with her that will contribute to a comfortable atmosphere and support for you and your partner.
So, you see the role of a doula is vast and varied. She is there to provide support not only for the labouring woman but for you the partner too. Bringing a doula onboard to support your partner and yourself may just be one of the best things that you have ever done. During pregnancy, birth and beyond a doula will support you both emotionally, physically and provide you with a great deal of information that you may otherwise not know. A doula will support you both your way and do her very best to ensure that your experience is a positive and empowered one. An experience that is filled with all the right knowledge so that you and your beautiful pregnant partner can make informed choices.
So a doula is not “alternative” or “hippyish” or even “woo woo” but rather an alternative to having to do it on your own. Contact a doula today and see what she can do for you both. You won’t regret it.
Don’t just take my word for it. For further reading and information, please click on the links below.
Find A Doula:
The Role of a Doula:
Benefits of Continuous Support Research:
Fathers and Doulas:
My name is Marcela Voigt-Jackman and I am a Doula who has trained at the Doula Training Academy. I am also a Remedial Massage Therapist (Dip), specialising in Pregnancy/Labour/Postpartum Massage, Paediatric and Infant Massage based in Margaret River, Western Australia. If you would like to talk more about your birthing options or how I can help you to prepare your body for birth, please contact me:
0414 411 975