and Doulas: Key Players on Mother’s Support Team
There was a time when expectant fathers were portrayed as anxious, floor-pacing,
cigar-smoking men who were tolerated in hospital corridors until the long-awaited
moment when a nurse or doctor would announce they were the proud father of a
daughter or son. Today’s expectant fathers are different.
When it comes to
pregnancy, birth, and parenting, today’s father wants to share
everything with his partner. He wants to be actively involved; ease
his partner’s pain, welcome his baby at the moment of birth and
help care for his newborn at home. The labour doula can help make 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 her partner during labour, 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 doula are present at a birth, women have shorter labours,
fewer medical interventions, fewer cesareans and healthier babies. Recent evidence
also suggests that when a doula provides labour 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 “labour 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
labour and birth.
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 his partner
in an environment and culture with which he is usually unfamiliar.
A doula can provide the information to help parents make appropriate
decisions and facilitate communication between the labouring
woman, her partner and medical care providers.
At times, a father may not understand a woman’s instinctive
behaviour during childbirth, and may react anxiously to what a
doula knows to be the normal process of birth. He may witness
his partner in pain and understandably become distressed. The doula
can be reassuring and skillfully help the mother cope with labour
pain in her unique way. The father-to-be may need to accompany
his partner during surgery should a cesarean become necessary.
Not all fathers can realistically be expected to “coach” at
this intense level.
Many fathers are eager to be involved during labour and birth.
Others--no less loving or committed to their partner’s well being--find
it difficult to navigate in uncharted waters. With a doula, a father
can share in the birth at a level with which he feels most comfortable.
The doula’s skills
and knowledge can help him feel more relaxed. If the father
wants to provide physical comfort such as back massage, change
of positions, and help his partner 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 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
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 labour.
father’s presence and loving support in childbirth is
comforting and reassuring. The love he shares with the mother
of his child and his needs to nurture and protect his family
are priceless gifts that only he can provide. With her partner
and a doula at birth, a mother can have the best of both worlds:
loving care and attention and the doula’s
expertise and guidance in childbirth.
Taken with permission from http://www.dona.org
Special Delivery Birth Services