One reason a woman may not be sure she needs a doula is that her partner will be present at the birth to provide emotional support. Or perhaps she and/or the partner worry that a doula will come between them in this precious moment of bringing their child into the world.
The truth is that labor can be a very long, tiring process for the partner as well as the woman giving birth. It can also emotionally be quite intense to watch one’s partner endure (perhaps quite a lot of) pain and to be faced with unforeseen obstacles in the impossible-to-predict process of labor and birth. It is really quite a lot to ask of someone who has little or no experience with birth to remain emotionally engaged during such a stressful event. The good news is that research shows that when a doula is there to provide support, partners tend to stay more engaged in the birth process and are less likely to pull away from the laboring woman when things become stressful.
I believe that most partners want very much to be involved during labor and birth. However, in the moment of truth, they find it difficult to remember all the things they read, heard in their childbirth class, and practiced at home before the big day. With the assistance of a doula, the partner can engage in the birth in a way that feels comfortable. Simply by bringing a nonanxious presence into the room, a doula can set a more confident and relaxed tone for everyone. A doula also helps by reminding the partner about physical comfort techniques to try and by giving assurance when things are progressing normally.
A doula cannot replace a loving partner, who can provide a level of security and comfort that a comparative stranger could never do. This is not a zero-sum game–the choice is not one or the other. Rather, by having both a doula and a partner working as a team to provide support for the laboring woman, everybody wins.
If you’re still not convinced, here’s the way a partner of one of my clients described the experience of having me as their doula:
When Jordan first told me she wanted a doula, I wasn’t sure what a doula was! When I found out, I wasn’t immediately agreeable. I had imagined just her, me, and the hospital staff. I was sure we (read: I) could handle everything on our own, and I expected it to be really awkward to have another person there. But in the end, I was very glad to have you. You were reassuring, kept Jordan confident, and were her voice and sanity when she didn’t have her own! I felt like you were part of my team. I know you kept her sane throughout the process. I know you helped keep her as physically comfortable as possible. You were able to relate with her throughout the experience, something I could never have done. Thank you also for keeping me confident. I knew that if I forgot any of our techniques, you would be there to assist me. You kept me confident that the delivery would go how Jordan wanted it to go (at least what we had control over). We had taken a birthing class, but you initiated a lot of the techniques we had learned about. It was great to have an extra pair of massaging hands and your confident voice in the room.