Birth Partners and Doulas
A woman’s partner is an essential part of her support system during labor and birth. Often times her partner wants to be actively involved, helping to ease her discomfort and advocate on her behalf. He may have had no experience with birth before and yet is expected, though participation in a birthing course or reading a book, to be familiar with the labor process and language of birth, to understand medical procedures and hospital protocols, and to remember all the comfort measures that will be useful to his partner in the moments that she needs them. Many partners are eager to take on this role, while others, who are no less dedicated to the mother’s well-being, find these expectations unnerving.
A doula can help a woman’s partner share in the birth at whatever level he feels most comfortable and participate with confidence. If he feels anxious about his reaction to seeing the mother in pain or her instinctive behavior during childbirth, a doula’s skills and knowledge can help him relax. She can offer reassurance and clarify what are normal parts of the birthing process. If he wants to provide physical comfort, the doula can offer guidance and suggest options for what may work best. She can also step in to give him a break when he needs one or go to get food or drinks so that he does not have to. A doula complements the partner’s role and strengthens it, helping him to nurture the mother, and helping to give them both the best possible experience.