We are excited to share this guest post today from Megan Hughes, BBCI, about four reasons dad needs a doula. We often talk about why the birthing mother needs a doula, but the truth is that a doula can benefit dad just as much. There are many reasons a couple can both benefit from the presence of a doula, here are just four of them.
4 Reasons Dad Needs A Doula
My Name is Megan Hughes and I am a Birth Boot Camp childbirth educator in Fort Worth, Texas. I teach a 10 week intensive course for natural childbirth that’s geared towards moms AND dads. My class schedule and location can be found on my website at www.birthhigh.com along with my musings and rantings over all things birth and pregnancy related.
A couple weeks ago during one of my natural birth classes, a colleague of mine came as a guest speaker to talk about the function of doulas in labor and birth. It got me to thinking about my own pregnancy and my husband’s response as one that may be fairly typical – and thus worth addressing. Many of the points she brought out were too good to be left alone and so I have included them within my ponderings.
There is a lot of information out there expounding on the virtues of doulas. A decent awareness of how important a function they serve to a laboring mother has been raised and is continuing to gain more attention all the time. What I want to concentrate on in this particular post is why doulas are important to DADS.
Statistically speaking, births where a doula is present are generally shorter, less complicated, and many mom’s report, less painful.
This is all well and good when considering birth in general terms. No dad wants his partner to be in more pain and for longer than she has to be. I have found, however, that in many cases, Dad’s enthusiasm for doulas may wane in view of their price point. Rates for doulas can vary drastically. Some may charge nothing or only the cost of their expenses. (Usually these are working on their certification) The tradeoff is a lack of experience. Others may charge very little, $100-$200 while still others may charge from $700-1000+. Location and experience all factor in to the price of a doula.
In today’s society, with health costs rocketing ever higher, having a baby can get quite expensive – especially if mom is planning to stay home with the kids. The financial stresses placed on the father as a sole income provider can be severe. At this point many dads feel that while a doula would be nice…ultimately doulas may be a luxury and therefore an extra expense that bears considerable scrutiny before diving right in.
It is not my intention to beat up on Dads for perhaps having this mindset. After all, yes, moms CAN have babies without a doula present. My real purpose is to highlight why doulas are important to Dads in particular and why they also have a personal stake in determining a doula’s value.
REASON #1: Doulas Are Personal Birth Encyclopedias
This is especially fortunate for those couples who have not taken childbirth classes or where mom took a class but Dad did not. During labor and birth questions and concerns may arise, especially for first-time parents. Depending on the couple’s birth location and care provider, staff may not have the time (or frankly the inclination in some cases) to sit down and fully explain exactly what is happening, why is happening, and what (if anything) needs to be done. A doula's role is different than that of a nurse. This is where doulas come in handy for Dads as they are able to explain and translate the medical and technical jargon. They are also versed in offering different alternatives to choose from when considering options for any given situation. i.e. labor is stalling out. Instead of going straight for the Pitocin a doula may offer some suggestions to try first such as changing positions, getting upright, walking, calling a chiropractor, etc.…
This sort of knowledge and experience can be tremendously helpful for Dad as labor wears on and mom makes the trip to “labor-land.” As is common, mom withdraws into herself, concentrating on what she must do. Dad becomes mom’s advocate and possibly defaults into making some decisions for her and the baby. How much of an advantage would it be to have the knowledge and resources on hand from an objective party whose SOLE interest is the well-being and healthy outcome of the birth? Doulas do not work for the hospital, the birth center, the nursing staff, the grandparents or extended family. They work for YOU! They work for Mom and Dad. They are thus enabled to provide options and alternatives as an unbiased party.
Even if the couple HAS taken childbirth education classes, it is sometimes easy to forget things you’ve learned in the heat of the moment. Having a doula there to remind both mom and dad of the choices available or just offer general encouragement to help keep both parties emotionally and mentally grounded.
REASON # 2: Doulas Call Time-outs
Some couples may consider hiring a doula because they are unsure of themselves in the face of medical opposition and feel like having a doula is kind of like hiring their own personal referee. And while it’s true that a doula can be useful in helping mom and dad express their wishes, she is not a gladiator. She does not fight your battles for you. She is not your voice. She does remind you that you HAVE a voice.
Many Dads may be intimidated by the fact that they are their partner’s advocate; some prefer to entrust any responsibility for their partner’s care to the medical “birth professionals.” I don’t believe this is done out of indifference but rather out of fear that some preference they should push for or decision they should make could somehow end up harming mom or baby. (Much of this fear can be taken away though education, which is why it is so important for dad to attend birth classes with mom.) This attitude doesn’t just occur in hospitals but in every location from hospital to homebirth.
It is at this proverbial ‘fork in the road’ type decision where Dad has that ‘deer in the headlights’ expression that a doula may pipe up with a simple, “Can we have a few minutes to talk this over privately?” It’s a simple sentence but the effect can be profound. Even just a quick timeout where everyone takes a breath and a step back can give a couple a chance to regroup and decide for themselves what their voice will sound like.
This also applies to the over defensive Dad that just isn’t seeing eye-to-eye with a provider. Having someone there to call a timeout may help Dad to regroup and possibly come up with a better way to communicate his partner’s needs and wishes in a manner that will be more likely to see them filled.
REASON #3: Doulas Share The Heavy Lifting
For those Dads who have never participated in a birth before- labor support can be a very intensive manual labor job. Depending on how long mom labors, DAD may need a chiropractor before all is said and done! With the possibility of hours of continuing contractions in which Dad may bear mom’s weight partially or wholly, applies hip squeezes and counter pressure…or the myriads of other physically taxing comfort measures that are so helpful. Having a partner to share the physical burden can make the difference between a tired but still functioning dad, and a stressed out, exhausted, and overwhelmed Dad. Remember, the attitude and energy in the room affects how mom labors as well.
Even if Dad doesn't do much of the physical labor support, having someone there to tap him out so he can run to the bathroom or get a quick bite to eat, or even just a small break to gather his energies can be extremely helpful. After all, it’s not like mom can hit pause on the contractions so Dad can take a pee break or because his arms are sore and cramping up.
REASON #4: Doulas Shine UP Dad’s White Knight Armor
I think it’s safe to say that pretty much every man wants to be a hero in his partner’s eyes. One of the great things about this period of time between partners is that it is an opportunity for Dad to shine in his capacity as protector and care-giver. And doulas can provide that extra spit to make Dad shine like Prince Charming.
The thing is, in 20 years a woman may or may not remember the name of her doula. She will ALWAYS remember her partner’s attitude and actions at birth. Therefore it is not the doulas place to horn in and replace Dad as mom’s anchor but rather to help in whatever capacity she can to enable DAD to be mom’s rock and anchor.
For example, she might suggest quietly a comfort measure that Dad could do – maybe mom needs a cool rag on her forehead. Of course a doula could just do it herself but by enabling Dad she has enabled the one person with whom mom has the strongest, most personal connection, to show how much he loves and cares for her by being her comforter.
As much as a mom my like her doula, ultimately it will be the tender touches and enduring constancy of DAD’S support that will mean the most to mom. And that is as it should be.
So for the Dads that want to help, want to be there for their partners, and just aren’t quite sure how to go about it, having a doula to be your trusty squire will make being the White Knight an easier and more assured role.
So when considering a doula, Dads, consider your personal stake in her and get involved! They aren’t just a luxury or an extra expense. They are an asset to YOU! Go with your partners to meet and interview them –you will be working with them quite closely so it would be a good thing to have a hand in the selection process.
After all, every White Knight needs a trusty squire in a fairy-tale ending!
If you are looking for a comprehensive natural birth class in the Fort Worth area, then check out Megan. She can be contacted via e-mail at mhughes (at) birthbootcamp (dot) com. Visit her at www.birthhigh.com for more musings. She teaches a 10 week intensive course for natural childbirth that’s geared towards moms AND dads.
We are so excited about all the people who participated in our "Why I Loved My Natural Birth" contest. So many wonderful videos with touching, amazing, funny stories. Birth does matter and you all showed us why it mattered to you.
We are especially grateful for the instructor or doula program hopefuls who entered. Thank you! We so look forward to having you join us soon!
And the winner is...
Kacy's ingenious video was more than an entry. She channeled her inner Vanilla Ice, she danced, she sang, she actually rapped. No surprise that Kacy WON! If you haven't seen her video, go check it out now!
Kacy teaches natural birth classes in Houston, TX. We love our instructors!
Thanks for playing and participating. More contests coming soon!
Valentine’s Day is coming soon and for most that means thoughts of love, budding romance, flowers, and chocolates. But for those who have expanded our families beyond the couple, Valentine’s Day, and the love it focuses on, means so much more.
To celebrate this love, Birth Boot Camp is focusing on your LOVE of natural birth. With the amazing powers of the love hormone, oxytocin, present at natural birth, is it any wonder that people love it? We want to invite you to join in the celebration! We have organized a, “Why I Loved My Natural Birth” video contest.
Plus, there is a prize!
Here are all the details:
Step 1. Make a video where you talk about why you loved your natural birth. Keep it to about one to two minutes in length.
Step 2. Send your video in to Birth Boot Camp. We will post the video on our YouTube channel. All videos should be sent to sarah(at)birthbootcamp(dot)com. The last day for video submissions is February 10th.
Step 3. Wait for Birth Boot Camp to share your video on YouTube. When it has been uploaded, we will send you an e-mail.
Step 4. Share your video with your friends and ask them to hit the thumbs up button on it on the YouTube channel. The video with the most thumbs up will be the winner! Voting closes at midnight on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. We will share your video on YouTube and possibly via other social media outlets. We will also upload it directly to Facebook, but likes on Facebook will NOT apply or help you be chosen as a winner. (If you have a website you would like mentioned below your submission, let us know and we will strive to include that!)
Winner of the “Why I Loved My Natural Birth” contest will win $100 towards a purchase on the Birth Boot Camp store OR towards online classes OR towards doula or instructor training!! We are accepting submissions now, so get yours to us as soon as possible. We can’t wait to see it!
ENTRY: No purchase necessary to enter or win. Contestants will enter by submitting videos to email@example.com
ELIGIBILITY: This contest is open to anyone over the age of 18 who wishes to share what they loved about their natural birth. Advisory Board Members of Birth Boot Camp (and its affiliates and subsidiaries) and their families are also eligible. Void where prohibited by law. Contestants residing in those areas where the contest is void may participate in the contest but may not win any prizes.
PRIZES: Winners may win $100 toward product on the Birth Boot Camp store. No cash value. https://birth-boot-camp.mybigcommerce.com/ If you are not currently a Birth Boot Camp DOULA or Instructor and are elidgible to become one, you may use the $100 to apply towards your certification. Or, if you would like to take our online classes, you may apply the $100 towards your classes.
WINNER NOTIFICATION: Winners will be notified within 14 days after the determination date. Inability to contact a winner may result in disqualification and selection of an alternate winner.
GENERAL CONDITIONS: Participants hereby grant Birth Boot Camp a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to broadcast, publish, store, reproduce, distribute, syndicate, and otherwise use and exhibit the Submission (along with their names, voices, performance and/or likenesses) in all media now known and later come into being for purposes of trade or advertising without further compensation. Participants represent and warrant that they have full legal right, power and authority to grant Birth Boot Camp the foregoing license and if applicable, have secured all necessary rights from any participants in, and contributors to, their Submission in order to grant such a license. Birth Boot Camp is under no obligation to use any Submission or return the Submissions to participants. Winners will be required to execute and return a Certificate of Eligibility, Consent and General Release form within 14 days of notification. Non-compliance within this time period may result in disqualification and selection of an alternate winner. Any income tax liability is the sole responsibility of the winner.
USE OF CONTEST INFORMATION: All entries become the property of Birth Boot Camp, inc. Birth Boot Camp reserves the right to use any and all information related to the contest, including submissions provided by the contestants, for editorial, marketing and any other purpose, unless prohibited by law.
NOT ENDORSED BY FACEBOOK: By participating in this contest, you acknowledge that this contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook and release Facebook from any and all liability arising from or related to this contest. The information you are providing for this contest is being provided to Birth Boot Camp and not to Facebook, and will be used to notify you if you have won, and to inform you about special offers from Birth Boot Camp and our trusted partners.
CONDUCT: All contest participants agree to be bound by these Official Rules. Birth Boot Camp in its sole discretion, reserves the right to disqualify any person it finds to be tampering with the entry process, the operation of its web site or is otherwise in violation of these rules.
LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY: Birth Boot Camp is not responsible for late, lost or misdirected email or for any computer, online, telephone or technical malfunctions that may occur. If for any reason, the contest is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention or technical failures of any sort, Birth Boot Camp may cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the contest. Entrants further agree to release Birth Boot Camp from any liability resulting from, or related to participation in the contest.
Should you prepare for a home birth? While it is true that you are more likely to have a natural birth when birthing at home, there are still many things that you can do ahead of time to prepare for a fabulous experience. In truth, a home birth requires just as much preparation as any other birth. Here are five tips on how to prepare for a home birth.
Step 1- Carefully choose your midwife-
All midwives are not created equally. They vary in their qualifications, certifications, experience, and even legality from one state to the next. It is important to know what your midwife has to offer and if that is what you want and feel comfortable with for your birth. (This post has a list of questions to ask a home birth midwife.)
Some women really crave a motherly confidant, others somebody who totally trusts birth. Some women prefer somebody with a similar faith to them, while other women are most concerned with emergency supplies and skills.
Here are some things that may be important to you as you choose a home birth midwife:
~Applicable medical skills, experience or certification. Asking about their skill and ability in resuscitation of the newborn, stopping hemorrhage both with pharmaceuticals and with herbs, suturing, and starting an IV, are all important.
~Relationship and connection. Pick somebody who you not only trust to handle any emergency that might pop up, but who you also like and feel comfortable while very vulnerable.
~Experience and education are important. Where did she receive training? How many births has she attended? Is she CPR certified? Can she start an IV easily? Do those things matter to you? What laws governing midwifery care will apply to your birth? What is she uncomfortable or unskilled at? Will these things merit transfer? This link has a basic break down on the different types of midwives and what they do.
There is a pervasive idea that you don't need a class if you birth at home because nobody is standing at the ready with an epidural in your house.You still have to labor and birth no matter where or how you have your baby. For this reason, a comprehensive childbirth class is an important part of preparing for a home birth. Knowledge is powerful, not just in improving your experience, but in helping you be more prepared for any outcome possible.
There are many reasons a home birthing couple can still benefit from a childbirth class.
~It prepares dad. Not all dads are excited to read volumes in preparation for a home birth, but a class can be incredibly beneficial in communicating that information in a fun and informative way. A birth class that prepares him well can do heaps of good not just for his comfort, but also your enjoyment of the birth. It is a sad truth that sometimes the birthing woman feels a little resentful of a clueless partner after a hard labor and many a dad feels useless and helpless when he isn't prepared. (We love this post full of photos of incredible birth partner dads. Birth can be an empowering experience for both people in the relationship!)
~Many women, even those who home birth, need to learn to relax. They also may need to learn how to navigate the hospital system in case of transfer. Sometimes a transfer to the hospital is necessary. This doesn't happen too often, but the experience can be much less traumatic if your birth class also prepared you for things outside of your plan. In fact, our resident midwife advisory board member has noticed that her clients transfer less often if they are well prepared with a Birth Boot Camp class.
Step 3- Prepare your home-
Home birth requires mom to prepare some things in advance on the home front. Even if you have helpful family and friends, it is still nice to have an organized house with lots of things set aside in the freezer.
One of the most helpful things you can do is prepare or purchase meals in advance before your home birth. This can be fairly painless if you simply choose one meal a week to double in the months leading up to your birth. Using a disposable pan for the mean going in the freezer can make clean up after baby even easier.
Some recipes that can work well are: shepherd's pie, homemade macaroni and cheese, stuffed bell peppers, lasagna, and enchiladas, chicken and rice with veggies, or various soups. Even if you have numerous meals delivered by friends and loved ones after the birth of your baby,you may have a few days before anybody knows you had a baby where those frozen meals come in handy. In addition, after the baby comes and the meals have stopped, it is nice to have something ready for those days when baby needs extra attention and feeding.
Getting your birth kit ready and organized in an easy to access place, having a clean bathroom and clean sheets (with a spare), having your midwives number programmed into your phone (and your partner's phone) are all additional ways you can prepare your home for the new baby.
Another important part of preparing for a home birth is nutrition and exercise. It is amazing the impact our own nutrition and exercise can have on the comfort and low risk status of our pregnancy and birth. Choosing to birth anywhere means you are responsible for preparing your healthy body and staying low risk. If the words "eat healthy" or "exercise" frighten you a little, your birth class will be incredibly helpful on this front too. The food log contained in your workbook and the incredible exercise program developed by Katie Dudley for Birth Boot Camp, are helpful for both the beginner and the expert.
A doula is a welcome addition to a hospital birth, but they are also an asset in a home birth setting. The time that your doula spends with you before the birth during visits, during the birth, and after during the postpartum period, is not just helpful, it can be sanity saving. The time of labor and birthing is a time in life where more support is always needed.
At Birth Boot Camp DOULA we strive to also give our doulas exceptional education regarding breastfeeding and how to succeed. This knowledge on the part of your doula is one of the greatest skills she brings postpartum.
No matter where you are planning on having your baby, education, trusted relationships, nutrition and exercise, a prepared home, and a supportive doula are a wonderful addition to your preparations. Birth is designed to be one of the most amazing experiences of your life. Embrace it.
One common belief about doulas is that hiring a doula will automatically "empower" you. This isn't quite the case. What is true is that doulas can help you empower yourself. We love this guest post from doula and VBAC mom, Alex Rounds. Read it and share it with someone you care about. A doula just might improve their birth.
Doulas do not empower women, women empower themselves. But having a doula helps.
A few years ago,I had to explain what doulas are to family members, friends and acquaintances. Now the work is a little less strange and doula work is a little better understood. I see fewer confused faces when I introduce myself as a doula. It’s nice.Word is spreading that women with continuous support from doulas are more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births,shorter labors, less use of interventions such as anesthesia, epidurals and cesareans, and even have babies with higher APGAR scores (Hodnett E., Gates, S., Hofmeyr, G., & Sakala C. 2013).
Still many people don’t know what doulas are and many who would like doula support do not have it.I’m happy to share that rates of doula support are increasing because that tells me more women are having better births withlower rates of interventions. As Kozhimannil et al found, doula support in birth lowers risk of cesarean by as much as 60-80% and increase comfort and satisfactionfor one of the biggest events in the lives of parents (2014).Butmore women want doulas. We are an underutilized resource and thebody of evidence for the effectiveness of doula support is growing. If you think you might want a doula, don’t hesitate. We want to help.
Maybe you have heard of the “cascade of intervention” that can lead to more medicalized birth and cesarean.That’s one thing we can help temper. Sometimes it may feel like an intervention is the only option, and one intervention often leads to more. Doulas help women and their families evaluate choices and make sure expecting parents are aware of their options.Medical interventions come with risks, some may seem small, but risks are cumulative and some have known long term consequences.
Doulas work with women to help them use and build their own strength. We help women realize their own strength by supporting them. We are there to offer physical comfort, emotional support, and provide up to date, accurate, evidence-based information to the best of our abilities aiding the process of childbirth. Through this process fewer interventions are needed or elected by the informed and supported family.
Doulas do not preventwomen from using medical interventions but offer alternatives so that women may choose what is right for them and do not feel the need for interventions. Doulas do not empower women, but they do help women empower themselves.
We support women and their families. And when women do choose interventions, it’s usually with more time to talk about their choices, receiving more information and after offering or exhausting non-medical strategies.
Echoing the long held assertions of natural birth advocates,the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2014) recently sited doula support as an effective and harmless strategy for preventing unnecessary cesareans. Cesareans carry risks that many women, even those who have undergone them, are unaware of according to the Listening to Mothers Survey II (2006). These include:“severe maternal morbidities––defined as hemorrhage that requires hysterectomy or transfusion, uterine rupture, anesthetic complications, shock, cardiac arrest, acute renal failure, assisted ventilation, venous thromboembolism, major infection, or in-hospital wound disruption or hematoma––was increased threefold for cesarean delivery as compared with vaginal delivery,” including complications that effect long term reproductive health.
In the last few years, we have begun to see the cesarean rate dropping very gradually from a high of 32.9% to 32.7% (Hamilton, B.E., Martin, J.A., Osterman M., & Curtin SC, 2014)/ The efforts of many to improve maternity care, from individuals, consumer advocate organizations, labor doulas, medical professionals, medical organizations and collaborative organizations made up of all of the above, are beginning to turn the tide. But we still have a long way to go.
The late, great Marsden Wagner (former Director of the Women and Children’s Health for the World Health Organization)wrote, “labor and birth are functions of the autonomic nervous system and are therefore out of conscience control. . . two approaches to assisting at birth: work with the woman to facilitate her own autonomic responses - humanized birth; override biology and superimpose external control using interventions such as drugs and surgical procedures - medicalized birth.” Doulas are clearly part of the humanizing model. In a way that an untrained friend, partner and even your own Mother (probably) can’t, a doula can help guide and engage a willing support team, including moms, partners, siblings, kids and occasionally medical providers connecting the team to the laboring woman and improves outcomes as well as satisfaction. Friends and loved ones can help women feel better about their birth, but they don’t reduce the use of interventions (Cochrane, 2012).
Doulas help women so women can make choices about their care. We can’t guarantee outcomes, but we can help women improve theirs. I hear people say that doulas empower women. I don’t agree. Doulas do not empower women, women empower themselves. But having a doula helps.
If you think you might want a doula- then you probably should. If you don’t already want a doula, maybe you should consider the conclusions Hednet, et all came to… “All women should have support throughout labor and birth.” A doula is one of the best kinds of support you can have for your labor and birth.
In a nutshell, Alex Rounds is a moderately well-adjusted human being. She is a member of La Leche League, a Breastfeeding Counselor, and Mom. She has three fun, quirky and ever-challenging sweet kids. Presently, Alex's time is consumed with homeschooling, studying midwifery, volunteering, providing breastfeeding support, and attending birth as a doula. You can find Alex at www.AlexTheDoula.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/alexthedoula.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. (2014) Obstetric Care Consensus Series- Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean. Delivery. Number 1. 2014, March
Declercq E., Sakala C., Corry, M., & Applebaum S. (2006) Listening to Mothers II: Pregnancy and Birth. New York: Childbirth Connection, October 2006.
Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Osterman MJK, Curtin SC. (2014) Births: Preliminary data for 2013. National vital statistics reports; vol 63 no 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2014.
Hodnett E., Gates, S., Hofmeyr, G., & Sakala C. (2013) Continuous support for women during childbirth.Cochrane Database Systemic Review. 2013 Jul 15;7:CD003766.