Do Doulas Replace Dads?


Absolutely not! Fathers are often able to participate more fully with a doula present. The top two fears that a father has surrounding pregnancy and birth are the worry about the safety of his unborn child and his partner. Much of that fear is gone when a doula is present because she can provide informational support about the labor as it progresses, and her calming influence allows the father to give the love and support that his partner needs to feel.

The presence of a doula complements a father's role and strengthens it. A doula often can give suggestions and encourage the father to touch, to talk, and to help in ways that feel truly comfortable to him and comforting to the mother.

Fathers, with the support of the doula, are able to participate at any level that feels right and natural for them. In this way, fathers can experience fully the joy and wonder of watching their babies come into the world.

Components of Emotional Care MD Midwife Nurse Father Doula

Continuous, uninterupted presenece

- ? - + +

Knowledge/understanding of the mother

- ? - + ?

Love for mother and baby

- - - + -

Knowledge/understanding of emotions and physiology of labor.

? + + ? +

Experience with other laboring women.

+ + + - +

Ability to remain calm and objective.

+ + + - +

Knowledge of MD, midwife, and hospital policies

+ + + - ?

Perspective on problems and options.

+ + + - +

Advocacy of mother's wishes and goals.

- + ? + +

Freedom from other obligations, other patients, tasks, clinical management, and hospital policies

- - - + +

Knowledge of comfort measures






Key:    + provides this component; - does not provide; ? varies


What does a Dad/Doula partnership look like during labor?

Early labor at home: The doula can stay with the mother while the father takes care of last minute necessities, i.e, phoning friends, the hospital, and relatives, arranging childcare for siblings. If father needs to get gas for the car, pack the hospital bag, etc., the doula is available to stay and comfort mother.

The doula checks in with both father and mother to make sure they eating and drinking well. Either the father or the doula can fix light snacks while the other provides support.

If mother wants to walk around the house or neighborhood, either the father or the doula can attend the mother while the other answers the phone or watches siblings.

At the hospital or birth center:

Upon check in, the father will typically accompany his wife to triage (hospital setting) while the doula brings in the bags and sets up the room. The doula can locate the kitchenette, extra pillows and blankets, birth balls, and other necessities.

The doula introduces herself to your labor and delivery nurse, midwife or doctor, and lets them know about your birth plan.

If procedures or interventions are suggested, the doula can remind you of your options and alternatives. The doula offers informational support so father and mother can make decisions together. Typically, the father will discuss any decisions with the midwife or doctor, not the doula.

The doula can take a photo journal of the birth and include both mother and father.

Active labor, transition, and pushing:

The doula and father can relieve each other for eating, bathroom breaks, etc..

A doula can help preserve a peaceful, private environment for the laboring couple. If family and friends are attending the birth, the doula can help organize the group so everyone has tasks appropriate for them. The doula can also run interference if someone becomes anxious or obtrusive.

The father will often provide the very close, physical support, especially if "back labor" is present, while the doula gently coaches him from the side or from behind. Sometimes two people are needed for relieving back labor pain, especially when using a "double hip" squeeze.

During pushing, the doula is often talking the mother through each contraction, allowing the father to watch the birth of his baby while holding the mother's hand or leg.

Cesarean Births

Immediately after the birth, the doula can stay with the mother while the incisions are repaired. This allows the father to be with the newborn while he/she is taken to the warming area for procedures.

After the Birth

The doula typically stays until the baby is latched on and the father has made whatever phone calls are necessary. The doula leaves soon after so that you may enjoy your new family.