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.
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.
What do doulas do best? Well, that is actually a much longer list than the one below. Doulas have an amazing array of skills, many of which can't really be put into words. It is no secret that at Birth Boot Camp we love doulas. Here are just 50 of the many amazing things that doulas do best. Not sure what all of them are or how they will benefit your birth? Call your doula and ask her if she knows. You will be amazed! Good luck and happy birthing!
Getting a steak (when ice chips just aren’t cutting it.)
Filling birth tubs
A friend to call
Birth story listener
Natural birth supporter
Keeping unwanted (but excited and well-meaning) visitors at bay
Manipulating a hospital bed better than inspector gadget
Having unwaivering faith in your abilities
Providing non-judgemental support
Recommending care providers
Fix your pony tail
There is so much more that your doula can bring to your birth: doulas are truly priceless! Not looking to hire a doula, but would rather become one? Check out our doula certification. We have tried to develop the absolute best doula training program out there covering not just comfort measures but how to run your business and intensive postpartum and breastfeeding training. Check it out!
How do we take the fear out of birth prep? Every childbirth educator is aware of the Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle. It is frequently talked about as we help prep students for birth. Helping students understand that their emotional state can impact their physical experience of an event such as birth is eye opening and important. However, our words are powerful and lasting, especially if we focus on fear and pain. Today Amanda Devereux, co-creator of Birth Boot Camp DOULA, talks about re-thinking our reliance on Fear-Tension-Pain with a shift to something new and vastly more positive. Check it out. She has good words to share.
It is imperative that prep for birth help remove fear. There’s always more than one way to look at things and it’s time for a different perspective on the Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle. We all know the value of understanding this cycle, but when a woman is in labor this mental image and these words are not where her energy, nor ours as doulas, should go. Pointing out a person’s tension, fear or pain is never helpful. Instead, a good doula sees the tension, notices the fear, and then takes steps to help relieve tension or help remove the fear. We can then offer ways to help cope with pain in labor.
When we turn the cycle inside out and look at how great labor really works, we can see the Cycle of Cs. This is where birth happens and this is where a good doula finds her work. The three Cs of labor are:
Confident - When a woman has confidence in her ability to birth her baby and confidence in her baby’s knowledge of birth, her fears are gone. She knows this journey is the perfect one for this baby and she makes way for this little one’s birth. Although doubt may sometimes creep in, her confident roots gained from childbirth education and innate wisdom will give her footing. Her birth team will remind her of the magnitude of her strength and continue to further build her confidence.
Calm - Birth is primal, raw and sometimes loud; but even in this there is calm. A mother’s confidence leads to this calm. Laboring mothers are reassured by the smiles and supportive eye contact of their team, by routine, and the calm energy offered by all those confident in her ability to birth this baby. A laboring mother finds calm in her atmosphere, smells, sounds and rhythms.This becomes the grounds for her coping.
Coping - Each birth is unique and will require that a mother discover just how to best cope with the sensations of the birth of this baby. Her calmness and trust in her abilities will allow her to open her mind, heart and body to this birth. Though this she will find ways to cope. As she moves further through her labor and her baby nears, she will find increasing confidence through her ability to cope.
When we see in a mother the fantastic strength and power she shows us when she is birthing, we are seeing what has always been there. Her strength, her power - these are not new, she’s just reaching depths that she likely never knew she had. As doulas, it is our job to help her move through the Cycle of Cs, to shed light on her confidence, to help provide the calm and to make way for her to find her best way to cope.
Amanda Devereux is a doula based in New Orleans, owner of Nola Nesting, a mother of three and co-creator of Birth Boot Camp DOULA. Join Amanda at Birth Boot Camp DOULA training and help couples have amazing births in your own community.
We are pleased to share thoughts from Amanda Devereux today. We first met Amanda when she certified to become a Birth Boot Camp childbirth instructor. Struck by her passion and intelligence, we soon recruited her to help form the Birth Boot Camp DOULA program along with Maria Polduka. By systematically looking at what existed, what was lacking, and what professionals needed, they developed something truly unique. Here are few reasons why your doula certification should give you more than just letters after your name.
I am familiar with the increasing numbers of doulas disheartened by the certification options available to them. Doulas work hard to complete their certification and often feel they don’t gain much more than letters at the end of their name. Many are choosing not to recertify with their original certifying body because they gain little from maintaining their certification. I fully believe that when a person completes their doula certification they should be proud of the letters at the end of their name, not just because of their meaning, but because of what they get. You deserve more than just letters. Much more. Here are just five of the top things you get with Birth Boot Camp DOULA certification. We’ve set our standards high - expect a lot from us!
You will not only know some doula techniques, you will be confident as a doula and business person. You will know how to gain clients, interview and get contracts signed in addition to being confident working as a doula. Confidence is an important key to success in any business, but especially one that involves the interpersonal skills needed in doula work. From interviewing potential clients, to handling the variations of labor, you will be confident and poised.
2. Business Support
Birth Boot Camp DOULAS receive business training, contracts, all of their paper work and filing; and each of their clients receive a copy of Supporting Arms, a book just for Birth Boot Camp DOULA clients to help them prepare for their birth. This means no crazy handouts and no copying and printing- it’s all ready for you.
3. Marketing Support
Birth Boot Camp DOULAS receive marketing training at their workshop and have continued marketing support available to them including websites, business cards, promotional materials and stock photography - this is all INCLUDED. You will have access to marketing videos you can watch at any time from a marketing professional which will guide you in the days ahead. We do this because we want you to be successful and fulfilled through your passion for birth.
4. Lactation Training
Doulas often help mom initiate their first latch and check on breastfeeding during a postpartum visit. This means that doulas really need more breastfeeding training than just attending a breastfeeding class. Birth Boot Camp DOULAS not only take a full breastfeeding class covering newborn through weaning, but attend a lactation workshop focused specifically on doulas and lactation support. This ability will set you apart and make you more than a doula who can provide counter pressure in labor, but one who can help mom and baby have the best start.
5. Mentorship and Community
All Birth Boot Camp DOULAS have available to them mentorship by experienced doulas and peers as well as continued community, which is invaluable in this line of work. The culture of Birth Boot Camp is one of support - both personal and professional. From sharing marketing ideas, celebrating births and professional highs and lows - this community is unbeatable.
Amanda Devereux is an accomplished doula in New Orelans, a registered nurse, a childbirth educator, and co-creator of Birth Boot Camp DOULA.