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Are you interested in having a doula support your birth, but your partner is reluctant or resistant to the idea? You're not alone! Finding a way to respond might require parsing out just what it is that makes your other half uncomfortable, but there are a few biggies we can address here.

Reason #1: Not Sure What a Doula Does
It can be tough to describe exactly what a doula does, because each individual's support needs will be a little bit different. That said, the role a doula fills is to ensure you have continuous contact with a person you know throughout your labor and birth. If you are planning an out-of-home birth, she will often meet you at home to help you cope with labor before you transfer to your hospital or birth center. Once there, she'll help you settle into your room, making it as comfortable and home-like as possible. She'll be on hand to provide comfort measures, or, if your partner is hoping to be your primary comfort person, she can offer suggestions and guidance to make that comfort as effective as possible. She can also take turns with your partner, or team up to provide comfort measures that are difficult for one person to manage alone (like sustained double-hip squeezes, or multiple points of counter-pressure). Partners who prefer to take on other roles will be supported in this, as well--she can provide comfort measures while your partner focuses on your emotional needs, or make other arrangements to ensure your team is complete. She might be the one to fetch water, ice, food, cold and warm compresses, or the iPod you left in your car. She'll help explain what's happening at each stage of the process, help support your labor and birth positions, remind you to ask questions of your nurses and doctors, help make sure they see your birth plan, and if necessary remind them diplomatically to keep talking to you. Afterward, she can help you establish breastfeeding and get settled in with your new baby before she goes home. In most cases, especially at hospital births, she'll be the only person there to see you--and only you--through from start to finish, whether that means four hours or 24 (or more). Even if you are planning a birth with a midwife, the doula's role, independent of medical care, enables her to come meet you earlier than your midwife probably plans to and provide ongoing physical and emotional support regardless of your medical needs, which may pull your midwife away should they arise.

Reason #2: Concerned about Expense
Doulas are a big birth expense, and there's no getting around it. If your financial situation is in major conflict with the range of doula fees in your area, we have a guide to help you find ways to stretch your budget and bridge the gap, but that's not the only reason for a concern about expense. Hopefully, the explanation of a doula's role above will help justify the cost, but if not, a few things to remember:

  • A doula is a professional member of your birth team, extensively trained to provide skilled support that goes beyond what most non-professionals are prepared to do. In addition to her training and knowledge, she has experience with birth and knows when a particular tool might be most useful, rather than needing to run through an entire list to find something that might work. She's done this before--not just birth, but birth support.
  • It's true that not every family will need a doula, but it's rare to find one that won't benefit from having one. We are there to make the whole process easier and less stressful for both of you.
  • If you plan on having an epidural, there will still be work to do! Your doula will help maintain the space and keep you focused on getting ready to meet your new baby, help you keep your epidural balanced by helping you change position frequently (epidurals are somewhat gravity-based, and the effects will often flow downward, requiring position changes to keep the pain relief levels evenly dispersed), help you communicate effectively with your care providers, help you establish breastfeeding, and follow up with you afterward.

Reason #3: Concerned about Being Replaced
This is a big one, but hopefully one you can talk through! Any doula worth her salt will take time with you before your birth to talk about your plans. If those plans include your partner as primary support person, she'll be able to explain what her support looks like in that situation. She will review some ideas with you that you can practice ahead of time, and during labor will be there to guide your partner in providing the comfort measures you've practiced to make sure they're as effective as possible. She will usually have a longer list of tools to draw from, as well, so if the things you've practiced aren't working, she can make suggestions for your partner, as well. If labor is long, she can step in so your partner can take a break, or can step out for water, food, etc so your partner does not need to leave your side. She is there to support your whole family through this experience, and will ensure her presence is not intruding on your shared time as a growing family.

Reason #4: Concerned about Privacy
This one is often related to the concerns about being replaced, but has a slightly different nuance. "We don't want any extra people" can refer either to #3 or #4, and it's not always easy to separate it out even if you're the person uttering the sentence!

In terms of legal privacy and your personal information: A doula is generally bound by the same confidentiality requirements as other health care professionals. She cannot discuss your medical or personal details with anyone you have not released that information to (usually you'll sign a form to include her back-up doula, and possibly her certifying organization for record-keeping, but no others). She cannot post your photos or story on social media or her website without your express permission.

In terms of your sense of private space, this depends on what the concern might be, but your best bet is to find a doula who is a good fit for your family. If she is, you'll be comfortable, and she'll mostly fade into the background unless she's needed, limiting the extent to which it feels like a third person is present at all. Being present when needed and invisible when not is part of her job, and part of what she is trained to do.

In all of these cases, the best way to convince your partner that a doula is a good addition to your birth team is to meet some. Most doulas will provide you with a free consultation, and if you can get your partner to show up to a free meeting with an open mind, you just might find someone they love as much as you do. Speak to your prospective doulas on the phone, and let them know your partner is uncertain prior to the initial meeting, to see how they respond. You can also ask if they have any former clients who are willing to speak with you, both as a reference and to evaluate how she supports partners as well as people in labor. If you find someone who seems promising, set up a meeting, and go from there. There's nothing to lose!

Published in Birthing Styles

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