Pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period are all massive times of adjustment and upheaval – whether you’re expecting your first or your fifth baby.
We often hear about how a doula can help support a mother during this time, especially during labour and birth.
But what else can a doula really do?
Can a doula offer support that extends beyond the mother?
While mothers are obviously deserving of the best support possible, doulas are great at supporting dads and partners too.
A doula isn’t there to only support the birthing woman; she’s there to support the family unit. Becoming a parent for the first time, or welcoming another child is a big day for dads and partners – not just mama. By providing support for dad, a doula helps him to support the mother too.
Since dad isn’t the one giving birth, how can a doula benefit him?
There are many ways a doula can help, from practical assistance to emotional support. A doula doesn’t replace a birthing mother’s partner. She’s there to guide and support the mother and partner during the birth process – she's part of the team, not a replacement.
Here are 7 ways a doula can benefit dads and partners:
#1: Helping To Build Your Confidence In Birth
One of the best ways to support a birthing woman is to help build her confidence in her ability to give birth. In order to do that, you must also be confident in the birth process.
During prenatal visits, a doula educates parents about normal physiological birth, birth options and helps build parents' confidence in listening to their “gut” feeling – or instincts. They support all types of births and help you in your decision-making process as you make choices that are right for your family. She builds a relationship with both mama and dad too.
Through learning about normal physiological birth and birth options, dads and partners can feel confident in supporting their partners during birth. But they also have the reassurance of knowing a labour support professional will be there to guide them.
#2: A Doula Helps You Be A Rock Star Labour Partner
Can’t remember every comfort measure or technique?
Birth classes went in one ear and out the other, or simply drawing blanks during the rush of the moment?
Not to worry — your doula can give you suggestions to help your labouring partner. A doula is trained and experienced when it comes to helping mothers feel supported during labour. She isn’t there to replace you in providing comfort; she’s there to help guide you in supporting your partner. And because she isn't emotionally attached to the birthing woman in a way her partner is, she can keep her mind calm and focused, and wont freak out under pressure or if crap hits the fan.
From helping with the double hip squeeze (something many labouring women swear by) to suggesting some alone time to help get things moving, a doula can help you rock the labour support role. You might become the envy of the new mothers’ group when she shares about the hours of spot-on support you provided.
#3: A Doula Provides Practical Support
It isn’t uncommon for labour to span the course of a couple meals, and sometimes multiple bedtimes. If you aren’t practicing self-care, it’s hard to provide support to a labouring mama. When a doula is present, she can offer practical support so you can meet your basic needs, so you can be at your best. Whether this means running out to get food or staying with the birthing woman so you can grab a meal without worrying about her feeling supported, having a doula makes it easier for you and your partner to feel supported at all times.
Forgot warm socks? Need a moment for the bathroom? These little things can pop up during the course of labour and put you in a difficult position – empty your bladder and leave your laboring partner without support or deal with the discomfort as she copes with transition style contractions? A doula helps in avoiding those difficult choices.
#4: A Doula Comes Prepared
For most couples, living on call isn’t their typical way of life. When you have a partner ready to give birth any day, you’re forced into an on call lifestyle. You keep your bags packed, a new car seat ready, and have arrangements made for any older children.
In the throes of labour, it isn’t uncommon for parents to forget items or to not even realise a certain item would be worth bringing. A doula often comes prepared with little things you might not think of and her practical support also means forgotten items can be picked up or replaced.
If mama finds warmth comforting, a handy rice sock can help her cope with contractions. An extra hair tie to keep hair away from her face as she finds comfort in the tub can mean less distraction as she focuses on laboring. A rebozo scarf to help provide belly support or facilitate optimal fetal positioning may mean more effective contractions. These little things might be items parents forget in the heat of the moment, but a well prepared doula just might have these things ready to help you look like that rock star labour support!
#5: A Doula May Reduce Your Stress
Being the sole emotional and physical support for a laboring woman can be overwhelming for some partners. If we look at birth throughout history, we often see women surrounded by other experienced women offering continuous support. Our shift in birth norms over the last century has made it uncommon to have multiple continuous support people.
Partners provide an intimate and essential role that cannot be replaced, but a doula can come alongside to help relieve the pressure of being the sole support of a laboring woman.
#6: A Doula May Mean Less Difficult Decisions
For women experiencing unexpected birth complications, such as an emergency c-section, it can be a challenge to feel supported – especially after baby arrives. In situations where mother and baby face separation (e.g. baby needs to go to the special care nursery or NICU), partners are often left to decide whether to follow the baby or to stay with mama. Most women will want their partner to follow the baby to ensure baby is watched over, but this sacrifice means she’s left alone.
When a birth doula is present, mother and baby both have a support person. If dad follows baby, mama has the continuous support of her doula reminding her that her baby is in great hands. If dad stays with mama, they both have the reassurance of knowing someone can share with them how their little one is doing.
Even during routine post birth care, a doula’s presence can mean everyone feels cared for. Dad doesn’t have to worry about anyone feeling left out as he learns to balance attention between his new child and his partner – another way dad will look like a rock star birth partner!
#7: A Doula Helps Families Get Off To A Good Start
Women who give birth with a doula present have a lower risk of c-section, report more satisfaction (even when birth unfolds differently than expected) and have higher rates of breastfeeding. When a woman goes home feeling well supported and confident in her ability to feed her baby, it’s an easier transition for the family as a whole.
Even when things don’t go as planned – if breastfeeding becomes challenging or recovery from birth is physically and emotionally difficult – feeling well supported can help families tackle these challenges.
Doulas are a great support for labouring women, but the benefit of doula care doesn’t end there. Having a doula present can give assurance to a mother’s partner which enables them to be mama's best support. A doula isn’t a replacement for a mother’s partner; she’s there for the family as whole so they can have a supported transition into parenthood.
Photo Credit: Belle Verdiglione Photography