Many partners worry that hiring a doula will make them feel left out of the birthing process. They understand their role as that of the caring supporter and feel as though a doula might take that away from them or put them at arms’ length from their partner while she is in labour.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. As one of my clients’ partners once said to me following the beautiful birth of their daughter,
“There were so many moments when I know I would have felt anxious or worried, but seeing how confident and relaxed you were helped me to understand that everything was normal and that there was nothing to worry about. I was able to just follow your lead and focus on helping (her) through each contraction.”
In addition to serving birthing women, I make it a priority in my doula practice to get to know partners and to make sure that their anxieties and concerns, their priorities and preferences and their hopes and wishes are heard and responded to. After all, they are just as emotionally invested in the birth of this child as the woman giving birth is. While the birthing woman is the one whose body will undergo the changes of pregnancy and experience the sensations of labour and birth, the partner also has unique challenges to deal with as he or she supports her. It is not easy to watch as your partner, your closest friend and beloved companion copes with the physical pain of contractions, the exhaustion of a long second stage, the emotional turmoil of transition or the exertion of pushing the baby out. In addition, there may be fears about the health and safety of the baby adding stress and worry to an already challenging situation. When you further consider that on top of all of those pressures and stressors, that partner is expected to be calm, confident and supportive in a context with which he or she likely has little or no previous experience and which can be confusing and overwhelming, you begin to understand what a tall order it is for the partner who wants to support his or her partner during labour and birth.
This is a topic that I am actually hoping to write a longer piece about, hopefully for publication in a parenting magazine of some variety, but until I get around to finding someone who wants to print it, I figure a short post might get people talking and thinking.
Given what the research on doula support has unequivocally shown – that women who have doulas for their births have significantly higher rates of satisfaction with their births, fewer unnecessary procedures or medications and lower rates of postpartum mood disorders – there are many people out there, myself included, who believe that every birthing woman should have a doula, just as every birthing woman in Ontario has a doctor or a midwife to attend their births. In addition to a woman’s feelings of satisfaction, and no doubt in some cases, connected to it, is the fact that doula-attended births also have significantly lower rates of medical intervention. Statistically speaking, women who have doulas have shorter, less painful labours and are significantly less likely to request pain medications, require assistance with forceps or a vacuum extractor or have Caesarean births. Obviously, first and foremost, this is great for the women (and their babies) who can afford to hire doulas, but it is also great news for the health-care system. The cost of administering an epidural is about $2000.00 and a Caesarean birth costs two to three times more than a vaginal birth. When you consider that most doulas charge a fee that is somewhere between $500 and $1000 per birth, you can see how they could potentially save our healthcare system a lot of dollars, even if that healthcare system were paying for them. Which, in Canada, it is not.
When midwifery was first legislated and regulated as a profession in Ontario in 1994, one of the criteria that the groups who had been fighting for it were insistent upon was that it be accessible, meaning that there could be no restrictions based on a person’s financial constraints. In this province (though not in every province with regulated midwifery care) regulation came hand in hand with provincial coverage, meaning that women now have equal access (from a financial perspective) to both midwives and obstetricians. Now there are hopes that a similar arrangement might be developed for doula care. This would make the profession much more visible, as well as accessible. In the meantime though, what are you to do if you want a doula, but can’t afford the fees? Continue reading →