and Doulas: Key Players
on Mother's Labor 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 a son. Today's expectant fathers
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 partners 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 her partner 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 his partner 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, her partner and medical care providers.
At times a father may not understand a womans instinctive behavior 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 to cope with labor pain in her unique way. The father-to-be may need to accompany his partner 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 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
he feels most comfortable with. The doulas 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 his partner 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 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
has been recognized world wide. The Medical Leadership Council of Washington, D.C, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
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 need to nurture and protect his family are priceless gifts that only he can provide. With
her partner and a doula at her birth, a mother can have the best of both worlds: her partners loving care and attention and
the doula's expertise and guidance in childbirth.
* from DONA.ORG - Doulas of North America