Mom + Dad + Doula = The Perfect Team
When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and parenting, today's father wants to share everything with her. He wants to be actively involved; ease her labor pain, welcome his baby at the moment of birth and help care for his newborn at home. A labor doula can help a father experience this special time with confidence.
The word "doula" which comes from ancient Greek, today refers to a woman trained and experienced in childbirth. A doula provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the expectant mother and the father during labor, delivery and in the immediate postpartum period. The wisdom and emotional support of experienced women at birth is an ancient tradition.
Studies show that when doulas are present at 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 tend to stay more involved with their partner rather than pull away in times of stress.
Today, a father's participation in birth preparation classes or his presence at prenatal visits and in the delivery suite is a familiar occurrence. Yet, we sometimes forget that the expectations of his role as a "labor coach" may be difficult to fulfill. Sometimes it is also culturally inappropriate for an expectant father to be so intimately involved in the process of labor and birth.
The father-to-be is expected among other things to become familiar with the process and language of birth, to understand medical procedures and hospital protocols and advocate for her in an environment and culture he is usually unfamiliar with. A doula can provide the information to help parents make appropriate decisions and facilitate communication between the laboring woman, the father and medical care providers.
. At times a father may not understand a woman’s instinctive behavior during childbirth and may react anxiously to what a doula knows to be the normal process of birth. He may witness her 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-to-be may need to accompany her during surgery should a cesarean becomes necessary. Not all fathers can realistically be expected to "coach" at this intense level.
Many fathers are eager to be involved during labor and birth. Others, no less loving or committed to her wellbeing find it difficult to navigate in uncharted waters. With a doula, a father can share in the birth at a level he feels most comfortable with. The doula’s skills and knowledge can help him to feel more relaxed. If the father wants to provide physical comfort such as back massage, change of positions, and help her to stay focused during contractions, the doula can provide that guidance and make suggestions for what may work best.
Physicians, midwives and nurses are responsible for monitoring labor, assessing the medical condition of the mother and baby, and treating complications when they arise. But childbirth is also an emotional and spiritual experience with long-term impact on a woman's personal wellbeing. A doula is constantly aware that the mother and the father will remember this experience throughout their lives. By “mothering the mother” during childbirth 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 presence and loving support in childbirth is comforting and reassuring. The love he shares with the mother and his child, his needs to nurture and protect his family are priceless gifts that only he can provide. With the father and a doula at the birth, a mother can have the best of both worlds: the father’s loving care and attention and the doula's expertise and guidance in childbirth.
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Here are some reasons why a doula may be helpful for dad during labor and birth:
The doula can give you a break. You may think it will easy enough to stay awake for a big event like childbirth. But depending upon how long her labor lasts, you may find yourself fighting to keep your eyes open. A doula can really be a huge help in such a situation. With your wife's/girlfriend's blessing, run to the bathroom or take a nap so that you can regain the energy and focus necessary to help out when the big moment arrives.
The doula remembers what she learned in her training. Even if you paid attention in childbirth class, you may find that you can't remember everything in the heat of the moment. Don't worry. Your doula remembers everything about how to make the labor as pleasant and problem-free as possible.
The doula knows the right questions to ask, and the right information to give. When you arrive at the hospital, you will be bombarded with questions, and you may not necessarily be in the best frame of mind in which to adequately answer them. You'll feel relieved when you can let your doula take charge. Your doula can also be very helpful in getting information, ensuring you have enough information to make any necessary decisions.
A doula speaks the language of labor. Nurses and doctors can often revert to using medical terminology that you don't necessarily understand. Your doula can be a huge help in translating such unfamiliar jargon.
A doula keeps you calm. Labor can be hard. Your doula can show you how and where to touch your wife/girlfriend in order to keep her calm. Your doula can model how to behave quietly and efficiently. Your doula can make you look good.