Advocacy During Labor and Childbirth: Partner & Doula Support
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
We've been talking so much about how important advocacy is for labor and birth. But what will advocacy look like during your labor and birth?
Your birthing mind and body are not the same as your everyday mind and body. Your body is working hard; the largest muscle in your body is contracting frequently and rhythmically for hours (and possibly days), and your mind turns inward as you focus on the work your body is doing. So, as you walk into your birthing place, your ability to converse, discuss birth choices, and advocate is diminished.
Can you advocate if you choose birth on your own? Absolutely. But, you would most likely find it is extremely difficult to do, especially as labor progresses.
This is one of the many reasons why having continuous labor support is so important. Your medical provider may know your birth choices from meetings you have had with them during your pregnancy, but your provider will not likely be by your side during your whole labor. Many people report they only saw their providers at the very end of their labor as they pushed their babies out. Others never see their providers during labor, and instead wind up birthing with a hospitalist. Even those who use a home birth midwife will not likely see their providers until at least active first stage labor. And, let's not forget, your medical provider is mainly working with you to make sure you and baby are healthy.
Another reason why advocacy from a trusted birth partner is so important is because birth is unpredictable. Birth plans a fantastic, and, in my opinion, a necessity for having the birth you want (unless you get lucky). However, in the event that your birth takes an unexpected turn, you'll have to make decisions in the moment, and your birth partner is someone who has discussed your preferences with you at length. Because of this, they are the best person to talk with you about your decisions in combination with your provider.
So, to sum up, here are the reasons having a birth partner advocate with you can be so helpful:
You will naturally turn inward during labor in order for your body's work to be done. Decision-making will be extremely difficult.
You trust your birth partner. They will be with you during your whole labor, even if your medical provider is not.
Your birth partner knows you and they know what you want for birth.
Often, birthing people will choose to have a birth partner who is near and dear to them (e.g. husband, boyfriend, partner, spouse, wife, mother, etc.) accompany their births. Sometimes these birth partners need help with advocacy during labor and birth. That's one way doulas support births. Doulas also know your birth plans, care about your birth, provide continuous support, and support your partner in advocacy and whatever other needs they may have. As a doula, I can say we wear many many hats, and that advocacy is at the forefront of this doula's mind.
Stay tuned for my last entry in this advocacy series: Advocacy in the Moment (using your BRAINS).
Emily McMichael M.Ed., CD(DONA), AAHCC, HBCE, CLC, LLL
Oh, and by the way, your body was made for birth.