New shift in fatherhood shatters stereotypes and gives hope for healthier moms and babies.
Movies and media have always painted dads to be clueless during the stages of childbearing, and usually depict men panicking and fainting while in the delivery room. But as difficult pregnancies, stillbirths, and maternal death rates continue to increase across the country, more men are stepping in as doulas to protect and support their loved ones.
A doula is a trained birth worker, traditionally female, who is equipped to support a mother emotionally and physically during pregnancy, labor and delivery. Doulas are not medical professionals, but they do work in conjunction with them. They don’t replace a doctor or nurse midwife, but rather function as a companion/cheerleader for the mom and her birth team. They provide hands-on comfort, assurance, and expertise that has shown to improve birth outcomes and maternal health.
Though every woman can benefit from having a doula, they’re especially crucial for communities of color. CDC data shows Black women have the highest rate of maternal deaths in the US. They’re 3.5 times more likely to die during childbirth, five times more likely to experience fatal postpartum cardiovascular distress, and more than twice as likely to die of hemorrhage or embolism.
In the face of this crisis, Black men around the country are stepping up to be part of the solution. Long gone are the days of clueless dads pacing in maternity ward waiting rooms. Devoted men are setting new precedents by proving that birth is not just a woman’s job.
In Carson, California, a man by the name of Dustin Young was inspired to begin his doula training as a result of his sister’s pregnancy complications leading to a still birth. Years later when she became pregnant again, he hired a doula and acted as the doula’s assistant for his sister. After a successful delivery, Young went on to become a certified doula himself and founded the non-profit organization, Our Own, that focuses on advocating, educating, and ensuring racial equity and social justice.
A Philadelphia organization, Daddy University Inc. has been a solid resource for fathers over the last 17 years. They provide education for the various stages of fatherhood with a diverse, inclusive and holistic approach. In addition to their all-male doula certification program, they also provide mentoring programs for “freshmen” to “alumni” fathers, plus special support for single/divorced dads and more through a variety of online classes.
When I learned of my pregnancy in early 2022, I had very strong ideas about how I wanted to manage this profound experience safely and intentionally. Although I was adamant on seeing a female obstetrician, I knew I didn’t want anyone else sharing such an intimate experience with me.
Researching options that were out there, my fiancé and I discovered a whole community of informed and enthusiastic fathers embracing the role of “daddy doula.” Inspired, my fiancé jumped right in: he learned maternal massage techniques, aromatherapy with essential oils, herbal tea remedies and how to prepare them; he studied acupressure and different meditation practices. He was up on all the signs to look for, how to time contractions, and when to call the doctor.
It was one of the best feelings in the world, to be so nurtured and looked-out-for. With him by my side in this capacity, I felt real confidence in my birth plan. My labor was void of stress because I trusted him to provide what I needed, and he focused 100% on creating a peaceful, safe environment for me. I understood the value of his support, and was immensely grateful for his presence and dedication.
Every mother should be so fortunate to have this experience with a man they love, whether it be her partner, father, uncle, brother – even a close male friend. The rewards are enormous for everyone, and could make a great story for the baby to hear when they grow up. I urge male readers to consider developing your doula-dad instincts for the moms that mean the most in your life.
Here are a few additional resources for new and expecting parents on childbirth education & classes in our area:
Daddy University – Providing fathers with the expert knowledge and resources they need to be the fathers they want to be for their children.
Womb-ish – Education and advocacy that makes space for the critical roles husbands/partners play in healthy labor, birth, and parenting.
Blossoming Bellies Birth – One of the city’s top childbirth education providers, providing expecting families info and support with classes, workshops, and community facilitators. Doula mentoring course includes guidance, resources, and referrals.
Philadelphia Postpartum Doula – Practical and emotional support and education for expecting families, from conception through early parenthood. Group & private classes, plus in-home assistance available.
Doulas of Philadelphia – Reliable, non-judgmental, comprehensive care for Philadelphia families, including labor support, postpartum care, childbirth education, and sleep coaching with a local team of trained, insured professionals.
Thoughts? Questions? Do you have a doula experience to share? Please share in the comments below.