Is a Doula Really Necessary if I Have a Midwife or a Supportive Partner?"

Some couples believe that their midwife will be able to provide all the support they will need. Others question the necessity of using a doula or fear that a doula might interfere with the intimacy of the childbirth experience.

Perhaps the following discussion will help.

When birth is occurring at home, the mother may benefit from the constant, attentive support of a midwife from early labor until hours after the birth. In such cases, the doula is a complementary helper to the whole birth team, actively and effectively working to support the birthing woman, her partner and the midwife. When birth is occurring in a hospital setting, a midwife (or other provider) often must tend to multiple laboring mothers simultaneously.  It's not uncommon for the primary provider not to be present at all until labor is well advanced. Typically, a nurse is responsible for providing most of the initial care and support and is almost certainly caring for multiple women as well. Consequently, the woman and her partner often find that the continual support they had hoped for isn't always available.

While childbirth classes are an important tool in preparing a couple for the physical process of birth, couples often find labor more demanding than expected. Often the burden of having to remember all that was taught in class falls on the labor partner who also may be experiencing birth for the first time. A doula can help with questions about the process, and especially in assuring that what the laboring women is experiencing is normal. 

A doula is beneficial to both the mother and her partner by helping the labor partner, as desired, to become a more active participant in the birth. The doula does this by offering suggestions and guiding the partner in ways to effectively help the laboring mother. Studies have shown that women who use a doula regard the support they receive from their partner more positively. This perception is often a result of the doula's ability to draw the partner into the labor and birth experience and to guide the partner into comfortable and effective participation.

A doula also provides emotional and physical respite. If a labor is long, who will relieve the helper so that he or she can step out to grab a snack or take a walk?  A doula can help to relieve these concerns. She provides the partner with a moment to regroup, refresh and rest as needed.

A doula never interferes with the bond between the laboring woman and her chosen partner.  Rather, the doula works to enhance this relationship and to protect this special time.