Doulas, Dads/Partners, and Mamas working together
When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and parenting, today's father/partner may want to share everything with their partner. They may want to be actively involved; easing Mom's labor pain, welcoming baby at the moment of birth and help care for their newborn at home. A birth doula can help a father/partner experience this special time with confidence.
Studies show that when doulas are present at a birth, women have shorter labors, fewer medical interventions, fewer cesareans and healthier babies. Recent evidence also suggests that when a doula provides labor support, women are more satisfied with their experience and the mother-infant interaction is enhanced as long as two months after the birth. With doula support, fathers/partners tend to stay more involved with their partner rather than pull away in times of stress.
Today, a father's/partner's participation in birth preparation classes or their presence at prenatal visits and in the birth suite is a familiar occurrence. Yet, we sometimes forget that the expectations of their role as a labor coach may be difficult to fulfill. Sometimes it is also culturally inappropriate for an expectant father/partner to be so intimately involved in the process of labor and birth.
The father/partner is expected, among other things, to become familiar with the process and language of birth, to understand medical procedures and hospital protocols and to advocate for their partner in an environment and culture they may be unfamiliar with. A doula can provide the information to help parents make appropriate decisions and facilitate communication between the birthing woman, her partner and medical care providers.
At times a father/partner may not understand a womanís instinctive behavior during birth and may react anxiously to what a doula knows to be the normal process of birth. They may witness their partner in pain and understandably become distressed. The doula can be reassuring and skillfully help the mother to cope with labor pain in her unique way. The father/partner may be asked to accompany the Mom during surgery should a cesarean become necessary. Not all fathers/partners can realistically be expected to coach at this intense level.
Many fathers/partners are eager to be involved during labor and birth. Others, no less loving or committed to their partners' well being, find it difficult to navigate in uncharted waters. With a doula, a father/partner can share in the birth at the level at which they feels most comfortable. The doulaís skills and knowledge can help them to feel more relaxed. If the father/partner wants to provide physical comfort, such as back massage and change of positions, and help their partner to stay focused during contractions, the doula can provide that guidance and make suggestions for what may work best.
Midwives, Obstetricians and nurses are responsible for monitoring labor, assessing the medical condition of the mother and baby and treating complications when they arise; but birth is also an emotional and spiritual experience with long-term impact on a woman's personal well being. A doula is constantly aware that the mother and her partner will remember this experience throughout their lives. By mothering the mother during birth, the doula supports the parents in having a positive and memorable birth experience. The benefits of doula care have been recognized worldwide. The Medical Leadership Council of Washington, D.C, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the World Health Organization are among the many healthcare organizations that value the benefits that doulas provide to women in labor.
The father's/partner's presence and loving support in birth is comforting and reassuring. The love they share with the mother and child and the need to nurture and protect the family are priceless gifts that only the father/partner can provide. With her partner and a doula at birth, a mother can have the best of both worlds - her partnerís loving care and attention and the doula's expertise and guidance in birth.
Helpful hints for Dads, Partners and other Support Persons
It may seem that you have a periphery role during you and your partnerís pregnancy, but it doesn't need to be that way!From classes to comfort measures, there are plenty of things that you can do to get involved during this magical time. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
* The first trimester can be tough for a lot of pregnant women due to morning sickness. Try bringing your partner a healthy, protein packed smoothie or crackers or toast before she even gets out of bed. Helping her start her day off right can make your day a lot less bumpy too!
* You can never tell your partner that she is beautiful too many times in a day. As you may have already discovered, hormones can cause havoc on your partnerís emotional state. Reminding her how incredible you think she is on a daily basis is invaluable (even if she never tells you so).
* Attend Birth Education classes and/or watch positive/encouraging birthing videos with your partner. She'll likely not remember all of the things that sheís studied about labor and delivery while in the throws of a contraction. Thatís where you can really shine! Be present and guide herÖ your partnership will be all the stronger for it!
* For some women, the last trimester can be just as hard as the first. By this point in the pregnancy, your partner can start to get pretty uncomfortable. The extra weight can be hard on her back, legs and feet. Sleeping can become difficult for her due to pain and an active baby. Try rubbing her feet/legs/back with lavender lotion (or some other soothing scent). The massage combined with the soothing aroma will make her coo with pleasure. Also, running her a nice warm bath before bed can help her relax into dreamland.
* HUGS HUGS HUGS! Nobody can get enough hugs, especially pregnant women!
Try a few (or all of these) and allow your actions to open a dialogue between you and your partner. She may need specific attention in areas not listed here. However, by doing some of these things for her, you are demonstrating that you WANT to be part of the pregnancy journey which may make her more comfortable to ask for what she needs.
Remember, her body and baby know how to give birth!