How Fathers Benefit from Hiring a Doula
There is no doubt that hiring a doula will benefit the laboring mother in numerous ways, as research has shown that with a doula there are shorter labors, less interventions, lowered chance of having a caesarean section, and increased maternal bonding in the months following childbirth. (DONA, 2001) However, it is not always clear how hiring a doula will benefit the father during the process. Doulas are experts in the area of pain management and emotional support for birthing mothers, but they are also trained to support any family members and fathers who are present. A doula can benefit a father by being present in the birthing room and thus contribute to a positive birthing experience for the whole family. Father’s nowadays are involved in the birthing experience more than they ever have been, and having a doula present can allow them to experience it with confidence. (DONA, 2001)
According to Marshall H. Klaus, John H. Kennell, and Phyllis H. Klaus, authors of “The Doula Book”, doulas and fathers occupy two different roles. Fathers are there because of the emotional bond and their personal attachment that they share with the mother and the new baby. Doulas, on the other hand, do not have that invested relationship with the mother or the baby. Although they do work to build a relationship, it is nothing like the relationship between the mother and her partner, or other family members. Doulas are birth professionals trained to manage pain, provide emotional support, provide information, be an advocate, and encourage and support the Mother AND the Father in their roles.
“We actually make demands on first-time fathers that exceed those made on medical students” (Klaus, Kennell, Klaus, 2002)
This statement is just one of the reasons a father would benefit from a doula. First-time fathers (and even 2nd or more time fathers) are often expected to do everything. They are expected to be the support, to be emotionally available, and to know exactly what to do at all times. However, this may be the first time they have ever had experience with childbirth, and a little guidance would be more than beneficial. A doula helps a father learn and determine what comfort measures will work for his partner. She will also allow opportunity for the father to provide more intimate support, as she will take on the physical work while the father connects emotionally with the mother.
Another skill that doulas typically possess is to know when to remove themselves from the space and let the mother and her partner connect. There are times when the father and mother may just want some time alone, and that is understandable, so the doula will step back and observe. Yet on the other hand, a doula will recognize when she is needed and she will then offer support
Penny Simkin, author of “The Birth Partner” and well known doula, childbirth educator, and physical therapist, provides a straightforward list of all the things a doula can do to help a father during childbirth. The list includes:
- Provide guidance
- Offer breaks
- Be the one to go get items for the mother, so that the father does not need to leave the room
- Offer reassurance if the father is concerned about the mother’s well being
- Explain what is happening with the labor to keep father always informed
- Help the father participate more comfortably if he is at all nervous
- Prior to the birth the doula will address any fears or concerns going in to the birthing experience
- Can take photographs of the couple, the process, and new baby afterwards
Childbirth is one of the most transformational experiences a couple will go through. The amount of support that the couple receives can have invaluable effects on their perception and personal satisfaction with the birth process and life changes to follow. Hiring a doula that you are comfortable with and trust can benefit the mother, the father, and ultimately, the family as a whole.
Charlotte Sanchez CPM is a Certified Professional Midwife and
Childbirth Educator of over 20 years.
DONA (2001). “Dads and Doulas: Key Players on Mother’s Support Team”, http://www.dona.org/PDF/DadsandDoulas.pdf
Klaus, M., Kennell, J. & Klaus, P., (2002). The Doula Book: how a trained labor companion can help you have a shorter, easier, and healthier birth. Cambridge, Da Capo Press.
Simkin, P. (2008). The Birth Partner: A complete guide to childbirth for dads, doulas, and all other labor companions. Boston, The Harvard Common Press.