In the middle of a long contraction, I leaned down towards the mom and helped her visualize moving up and over the contraction. My tone was low, my voice soft and undemanding. I looked up to see my client’s spouse, the father of the baby, watching my every move as I went through this process a couple more times with my client. I caught his eyes, nodded my head and motioned for him to come over and take my place.
Having watched how I helped his wife, he was able to copy what I had done with a few extra prompts from me. In this way, both husband and wife worked beautifully together through the next couple of contractions.
The research is becoming too obvious to ignore. Having trained labor support, professionally known as a doula, provides women with significant improvements in wellbeing and birth outcomes.
With recent research showing that the care a doula provides can decrease c-section rates and prematurity rates, medical professionals are now stating that all women should have access to continuous labor support.
What most people don’t understand is that having a quality, trained doula can also provide support for the spouse or partner.
Like with my experience above, a doula can also facilitate the ability of the partner to cope and work with the laboring woman.
5 Ways a Doula Helps You and Your Partner
#1 A Partner is More Involved
Many partners that I have worked with have done a lot of research into how to support the birthing mother. Their preparation gives them a better understanding of how to help during labor. What they lack, though, is practical experience and how to implement what they have learned. This is where a doula can really help both the partner and the woman giving birth.
- A doula helps partners utilize their knowledge in a way that brings couples closer together.
- This is backed by research that has shown that partners are more involved in birth when a doula is present.
- They spend more time in the room, and stay closer to the birthing mother.
It makes sense that when a partner has someone with practical experience to help them, they will spend more time with the birthing mother, translating into a closer experience for both of them.
#2 Doula Can Help Your Partner to Cope
Partners are often at a loss as to how to handle the emotional and physical challenges that they themselves are going through. While birth puts a heavy emotional toll on women, it can also affect those who are working to support them.
Some unexpected feelings that a partner may encounter include:
- uncertainty about the course of action,
- anxiety for the birthing woman,
- or insecurity in how they can help.
A doula can help a partner understand what is normal in an experience, as well as address any fears and anxieties they themselves may be having.
- Doulas can provide breaks for more physically demanding supportive techniques.
- They can also facilitate communication between the medical professionals and the partner when questions may arise.
- When most of the medical attention is placed on the birthing woman, a partner can feel lost in the experience.
- A doula can help them navigate a world that is largely unfamiliar to them and provide them with ways they can also cope as the partner works to support their loved one.
#3 The Doula Allows a Partner to be More Fully Experience During Birth
While a partner can effectively provide physical support during birth, that may come at the cost of their own needs. A partner may want to be the one that helps catch the baby or who is holding the woman’s hand.
In cases like this, having another support person on hand allows the partner to be involved in the way they would like.
- They can catch the baby while the doula is supporting a woman while pushing.
- Or they can hold a hand while the doula provides counter pressure to the back during a contraction.
In this way, both the partner and the birthing woman are being attended to and able to experience the birth in the way they need.
#4 A Doula Models Supportive Techniques
While a partner can practice supportive techniques, it can be much easier for them if they have an experienced doula to model what those techniques may look like. Just like any skill that we learn, providing practical labor support is done much better if we have a mentor to walk us through the process.
- Because a doula works with a couple even before labor starts, that mentoring can start at the first meeting they have together.
- Needs can be assessed and plans made in order to help a partner understand what they should know in order to help.
- Subsequent meetings can provide learning and practice which will then be honed during the birth.
While this can be done without a doula, a doula facilitates the process by bringing her knowledge and experience to the table. Thus, the partner can be sure they are able to provide the best support at the time it is needed.
The Big Picture
As my client’s spouse helped her visualize a wave through her contractions. I began putting some counter pressure on her hips to help decrease the pain she was feeling at the moment. My client’s mother came in, and I moved to allow her to do some of the counter pressure. I pulled the hospital curtain closed that had opened when the mother came in, and dimmed the lights a little bit more.
Scanning the room to assess the needs of the family, I remembered that no one had really had anything to drink or eat. I quietly asked what the family members wanted, then stepped out to gather the requested drinks.
Back in the room I gave the birthing mother a sip of water, and took over the visualization techniques while the spouse took a moment to go to the bathroom and have a cup of juice. As the spouse stepped out of the bathroom, the birthing woman began to moan lowly in response to her contractions. The partner’s eyes widened, and I reminded him in between contractions that moaning is a normal part of labor. He visibly relaxed and finished his drink.
With a doula continuously assessing needs, educating, modeling, and effectively supporting the family, this particular birth illustrated how all those involved can work well together in providing the best support for a laboring mother.
About the author:
Imagine being able to work side by side with a care provider, nurse, and partner – all working together as a team with the same goal: holistic care for the birthing mother. As a nurse, certified doula, and mother of seven (all born naturally), this is not just a dream, but the goal and passion of Rachel Leavitt. She owns and manages New Beginnings Doula Training, an online doula certification program at www.trainingdouals.com.