An increasing number of pregnant women in the United States choose to work with a doula. A doula is not an official nurse or doctor, but a professional who is trained to help ease a mother’s mind and body during birth.
The great majority of doulas are women, says CAPPA, one of the leading groups that train doulas internationally. CAPPA is also one of the supporters of World Doula Week, which is celebrated each year from March 22 to 28.
But there are some male doulas in the United States. Their involvement in childbirth is part of a growing movement in the U.S. to welcome men as caregivers for mothers and new babies.
“Now we are met with open arms”
Doula training organizations like CAPPA and DONA International do not record how many men complete their training programs. CAPPA says “a few.” DONA International says “a handful.”
Brian Salmon has been a doula for more than 10 years. He says he has seen a change related to men attending childbirth.
“Where we were once met with hesitation and resistance, now we’re met with open arms.”
Salmon lives and works in San Antonio, Texas. He says he understands that childbirth has traditionally been an experience women share. When he first starting coming to the hospital with pregnant women he worked for, the medical staff and other doulas did not always want him there. He thinks they worried he was taking away some of the power that women can feel as mothers and caregivers.
But now, he says, he has a friendly, positive relationship with the hospital workers. It’s a “cool thing to see some other energy in the room that’s different,” he says.
Salmon says he can also show fathers how to support a woman giving birth. He teaches men to give massages and help the mother with exercises to ease pain, among other things.
“My job is to make it Mom and her partner interacting so they have an experience that they look back and remember as what a strong team they were.”
What do women say?
Of course, not all women feel at ease talking about childbirth with men – or having one present while giving birth.
Nancy Goodman is a doula in Washington, D.C. She notes that childbirth is a very personal, intense experience. If a woman would not feel at ease having a male doctor, for example, she also would probably not want to have a male doula.
Tatjana Sanluis says she had to think about it before agreeing to a male doula. But doula Adam Miramon helped at the birth of her baby last year in Washington, D.C.
Sanluis says her husband met Miramon at a professional event while she was pregnant. The two men had a friendly conversation.
Sanluis says she trusts her husband’s feelings about people.
When she met Miramon, she liked him, too. The couple decided to work with him as their doula. Sanluis says she is glad they did. Her feeling of comfort around him was more important than whether he was a man or a woman.
Miramon, her doula, says most people reach a similar opinion. He says his clients are thankful for his knowledge, skill and attention.
And, he says, he can use some of his so-called “male privilege” to make sure they have all the support they need.
In another part of the country, a father is working on a different method for including men in childbirth.
Yale Nogin lives and works in the southeastern city of Atlanta, Georgia. He was trained as a chiropractor -- a doctor who helps people feel better by moving bones in the spine.
Today, Nogin is raising his four children and leading classes to help prepare other men for fatherhood.
Nogin says he urges his students to hire a doula to help the family during childbirth. But he adds that, with or without a doula, fathers can earn their partners' trust and respect by educating themselves and learning new skills.
Nogin believes he is giving men information they rarely get anywhere else. He says few men have been taught how to be good husbands and fathers. And, he says, most childbirth classes are led by women and directed toward women.
“I do think that more men want to grow. I think again it comes down to resources and, you know, being taught by a male. A lot of them go to the birth classes and they’re not comfortable talking to a woman about these kind of topics.”
Doula Nancy Goodman agrees that it is important to involve fathers during childbirth. She says that a woman giving birth will usually feel most at ease and happy if she sees the face and hears the voice of someone she loves. For that reason, Goodman says, having the father nearby is often a good idea – especially if he is well-informed.
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
Kelly Jean Kelly wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
hesitation - n. nervousness or uncertainty
massage - n. rubbing or pressing someone's body in a way that helps muscles to relax or reduces pain
interact - v. to talk or do things with other people
privilege - n. a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others
spine - n. the row of connected bones down the middle of the back: backbone
hire - v. to use or get the services of (someone) to do a particular job
comfortable - n. feeling relaxed and happy : not worried or troubled
topic - n. someone or something that people talk or write about: subject