The following conclusion of a meta-analysis of eleven randomized control trials which examine trained doula support answers this question rather well: “Observations during labor showed that fathers remained farther away from mothers than doulas, talked and touched less. When the doula was present with the couple during labor, the father offered more personal support. The father-to-be’ s presence during labor and delivery is important to the mother and father, but it is the presence of the doula that results in significant benefits in outcome.” (Source 10 on the birth doula research page.)
Another study specifically addresses birth support from people close to the mother and from doulas. They conclude, “Given the clear benefits and no known risks associated with intrapartum support, every effort should be made to ensure all labouring women receive support, not only from those close to them but also from specially trained caregivers. This support should include continuous presence, the provision of hands-on comfort, and encouragement.” (Source 15 on the birth doula research page, Emphasis mine)
These researchers specifically advocate “specially trained caregivers”–not your friend, your mom, your sister, your husband, or someone on Facebook who says they want to be a doula one day. It’s not the same! I’m trying to help you see this point about trained doula care to prevent you making an uneducated mistake. You need a doula to help you have the most beautiful birth experience!
So, no, your partner’s presence is not enough to give you the benefits which a doula’s presence gives. Remember, these benefits include faster, safer, more enjoyable labors; less likelihood of interventions like pitocin, vacuum, or c-section; better health outcomes for your newborn; better success with breastfeeding; more pleasant feelings regarding your birth; and more self-esteem and confidence after your birth. Yes, your spouse/partner’s support and encouragement are extremely valuable and are irreplaceable! However, having a trained and experienced doula can give you better odds of having your beautiful, memorable, and enjoyable birth!
Additionally, having a doula with you makes birth much more enjoyable for your partner as well as for you. If your partner acts as your labor support person, birth can be a stressful and exhausting (i.e., unenjoyable) experience for him! But we take all the pressure off your partner by acting as a “daddy’s helper” before, during, and after birth (see the bottom of this page for more info). Having a doula allows your spouse/partner to stay more relaxed and to have more energy for you, and it gives him the freedom to be focused on you and to provide the closer emotional connection and loving reassurance to you that no one else can.
Secondly, having only an untrained support person at your birth does not give you the same benefits. A trained doula has lots of experience in different types of birth and can provide you with lots of information before and during labor. We know what suggestions may help in which situations, and we can draw from our experience to know what certain tells and signs may mean for your labor progress and achieving your birth goals. We have no hidden agenda, and there is never any worry that you will “hurt our feelings” no matter how you act or what you say. Our training in natural birth also makes us a valuable information bank if you need any additional resources to make informed consent or if you do not feel supported in obtaining your childbirth goals.
While we do become your “Friend” and we call ourselves the “Mama’s Friend”, we pride ourselves in being trained professionals who do this work regularly as a lifelong passion, not a hobby or a part-time interest. We are more dedicated to your birth goals than a friend or relative “who only wants a healthy baby” can be, and we are emotionally detached enough to help you make rational decisions when you feel overwhelmed and feel like giving up. (Birth is so much more than healthy babies! It’s about empowering the mother and putting her in control of herself, her body, and her decisions.) We also are experienced in helping initial breastfeeding sessions go smoothly and can provide the latest positioning recommendations for successful lactation. Because Stephanie is a La Leche League accredited leader, and because we both (Angela and Stephanie) read new material about breastfeeding and newborn babies, we sometimes know more about lactation than an obstetric or pediatric nurse does. (And that’s okay, too! We all have our specialty and breastfeeding may not be there’s.)
We hope you consider choosing Mama’s Friend as your doulas; our testimonials page and our previous clients (references available) promise that you will be thrilled that you did!
Here’s how a doula helps the father-to-be:
- Before labor…
- We help partners understand what labor will look like and what to expect at each stage; and we show him how to massage you, where to put pressure, how to squeeze your hips, and what you probably will and won’t like during labor.
- Or, he can tell us that he prefers to leave the massaging and supporting to us so he can be at your face, holding your eye’s focus, petting your hair, and whispering words of encouragement and love.
- If he’s in flight school and can’t land the helicopter for several hours at a time, or if he makes a day trip out-of-town for his business, we take the stress off him worrying that you might be alone in the beginning.
- During the birth…
- He doesn’t have to remember everything you wanted him to learn from those books you wanted him to read.
- He doesn’t have to be the watchdog patrolling what is happening in your room.
- He has a backup if he needs to go to the bathroom or stuff down a sandwich.
- If he wants to be more involved, then he has someone there to help him learn how to massage and hold you during a contraction; or he can be free to just pet your hair and kiss you on the cheek if he chooses.
- Should a c-section be necessary, he won’t have to leave you lonely and scared in the operating room while he accompanies the baby to the nursery.
- After the birth…
- We help dad get in the newborn pictures by having us take the pictures for him.
- We offer to go get food for dad or go check on the pets at home so he can stay with mom (or vice versa).