1. If I have my partner with me, doesn't having a doula become redundant?
The doula may be the only person at the labor beside the partner who is there solely for the emotional well-being of the woman. The nurse, the doctor, the midwife have other priorities that compete with the emotional care of the woman; for example, breaks, shift changes, clinical responsibilities, office hours and hospital policies. The doula has few or no other priorities. She stays through the shift changes, and until after the baby is born. She is not just another stranger with the couple. She has the woman's needs as her sole priority.
In some cases, the couple will bring several other friends or family members into labor with them. Sometimes these people can be uncertain of how to help, which leads to confusion and actually adds to the woman's stress. The doula can direct and coordinate the efforts of a group of people, giving them all something useful to do, so they work as a team on the woman's behalf.
2. Will a doula "take over" and displace my partner's efforts to help me labor?
The doula can actually bring the couple closer. By making sure that the partner's needs are met (food, drink, occasional back rubs, and reassurance), the woman and partner can work closely together.
The doula allows for the partner to participate at their own comfort level. Some partners prefer to be there only to witness the birth of their child and to share this experience with the woman they love. They may not want to play an active role (or perhaps their religious beliefs render them unable to do so) and do not want ot be responsible for the woman's comfort and emotional security. The doula can fill in and allow the partner to participate as they wish, without leaving the woman's needs unmet.
When the partner chooses to be the major source of emotional support, the doula can supplement their efforts by running errands, making suggestions for comfort measures, and offering words of reassurance, and comfort. During a long tiring labor, she can give the partner a break for a brief rest or change of scene.
For the partner who is shy, uncertain, or unversed in their role, the doula suggests simple but truly useful tasks, such as timing contractions, holding the woman, supporting her in a particular position, massaging her. In such situations, the doula might take the lead, but the partner plays an important role.
While the doula probably knows more than the partner about birth, hospitals, and maternity care, the partner knows more about the woman's personality, likes and dislikes, and needs. Moreover, the partner loves the woman more than anyone else there. The combined contributions of partner and doula, along with a competent, considerate and caring staff give the woman the best chance of an optimal outcome.
3. Will I be pressured by the doula's beliefs/agenda about how the birth should go?
The doual's true agenda is to help ensure that the woman's or couples agenda (their birth plan)is acknowledged and followed as much as possible. If the doula is thoroughly familiar with the couple's wishes and their birth plan, she may actually think more about it than the couple, especially when labor is intense and things are happening rapidly. The doula can remind the staff or the couple of some of the items on the birth plan that are forgotten, but which later might be important. Sometimes if a birth plan is not followed, the coule later looks back with regret or disappointment.
The doula helps with decision making by asking questions that will ensure that the right information is given to the woman or couple so that they can make an informed decision. She may also suggest alternatives (like waiting awhile) for the couple to consider. She does not, however, make decisions for the couple.
The doula helps make the birth experience as rewarding and satisfying as possible. As one partner said, "I heaved a big sigh of relief when she (the doula) walked in. I hadn't realized how much pressure I had been feeling. She not only calmed my wife, she calmed me down."
*Some of these FAQ are adapted from Penny Simpkin's The Doula and the Partner: How They Work Together to Help the Birthing Woman.*