You're pregnant and researching ever pregnancy twinge and flutter, daydreaming of what's to come. You may be wondering if you could have a natural birth and how intense it's going to be. You are talking to your partner about your hopes and dreams, fears and concerns. Maybe you've heard great things about doulas. You do some research. A doula is simply defined as a birth support person. Well, you see your partner as your birth support person, so why hire a doula?
I felt the same way with my first birth. My husband and I took a 6 week Bradley method class and felt pretty confident we were prepared to go after natural hospital birth like pros. I don't want to undervalue the class. It was great, we learned so much about how labor typically progresses, typical medical protocols,
and interventions. We practiced relaxation techniques and comfort measures. I counted on my husband to advocate for me as I birthed our baby.
He did his best during my labor, but it was much harder than we expected. Although he was trained in bradley, this was his first experience with birth. It was quite difficult for him to be calm, cool, and collected especially when he felt I was in pain or that something might be wrong. It is not very reassuring to see grief or fear in your loved one's eyes while you are in the middle of active labor.
Here is my take on the role of a doula with a supportive birth partner:
A doula is a calm, reassuring presence for both of you, allowing you both to experience the emotions of labor and feel safe and supported.
A doula will help to manage the birth environment so you can be free to just be with each other.
A doula is the only trained birth professional who will stay with you for your entire labor.
While your partner may be 100% invested and take all the childbirth classes and even read some books (or perhaps is a little less of a birth junkie but still your unwavering supporter), they will not have the expert knowledge of birth that a doula has to be a grounding presence for both of you. If you are planning an unmedicated hospital birth, this is particularly challenging. Hospital staff will come and go which can be disrupting to the rhythm of labor.
A doula can suggest positions to help the mother cope with contractions and/or help the labor progress and baby move into a favorable position.
Some of these techniques your partner may have learned in childbirth classes, but you can count on a doula to have many suggestions and the confidence to make the recommendations based on what she believes will help you most.
A doula can suggest or remind the birth partner of ways to help you relax and breath, such as applying counter pressure and massage.
Many women require counter-pressure for the bulk of their labor which can be hours on end! A doula will happily assist with this tiring work.
A doula can allow much needed breaks to the birth partner, even if it's just a simple bathroom or snack break
If you are in need of constant hands on help or have gotten into a great rhythm and ritual with your partner, it would be terribly disruptive for them to leave you alone just to relieve themselves. A doula is a great support to the birth partner.
A doula can help to enlighten you of medical discussions, protocols, and procedures as they arise (medical staff do not necessarily explain these things)
Once again, a doula can reassure you and your partner when you don't understand what is going on in the room around you.
A doula can make the extra effort to invest in the hospital/or birth center staff and make them feel valued, building positive energy in the birth environment while your partner focuses on you.
Doulas and birth partners make an incredible birth team! A good doula will never take over the beautifully intimate role of your partner, but support you both to have the best experience possible!