As a doula, you have an important role in supporting growing families. Birth is an important experience with lifelong impact. Understanding how birth can impact parenting can help you better support your clients. When we know the importance of something, we are able to provide quality support.
It is important to note that it is not a specific type of birth (e.g., unmedicated, c-section, etc.) which impacts parenting. Rather the type of preparation and how one is treated during birth can have a great impact.
Prenatal Education Before Birth Can Impact Parenting
Doulas understand the impact prenatal education and preparation for birth can have on the birth experience. Fear of the unknown and experiencing something unexpected can be traumatizing even during a safe and typical birth.
Understanding the birth process, how to manage the unexpected, and knowing your options are huge for having a positive birth experience. Even if things do not go as expected, being aware of potential variables in birth is important for reducing fear and trauma during birth.
Another important aspect of prenatal education is learning about options, questioning the status quo, and understanding making evidenced based decisions. Clients can carry the same curiosity and critical thinking as they navigate parenting options from infant feeding to parenting style.
The Physical Effects of Birth Can Impact Parenting
While birth is a physiological normal process, it can have both short and long-term physical impact. How? Consider the impact of severe tearing and how that discomfort could influence breastfeeding? Or how it may impact overall mood and interaction in the short term?
Long-term side effects such as pelvic floor damage, c-section pain, etc. could influence overall early parenting, bonding, etc.
As a doula, helping a client make informed decisions about reducing their risk of tearing (e.g., laboring upright, being mobile, no ‘purple’ pushing, etc.) could help early parenting be more positive.
This is not at all to suggest having physical discomfort after labor will always or even frequently impact short and long-term parenting. However, it is important we understand potential implications. When we help clients feel prepared, supported, etc., they are likely to have a more positive experience both physically and emotionally.
Even when someone makes evidence-based choices, some will still have a physically difficult birth. Or the birth goes quite well but her body still experiences side effects. In these situations, having a supportive care provider, prenatal education, and adequate postpartum support can help them to heal and feel confident in parenting regardless of birth and recovery.
Feeling confident and supported when one begins parenting can have a lasting impact on how one parents for years to come.
Psychological Impact of Birth
As mentioned above, it is not always how a birth goes but rather how one is made to feel during a birth. When someone feels safe, cared about, prepared, and an active participant in the decision-making process, even the hardest birth can still be empowering.
On the other hand, even a seemingly great birth can feel quite traumatic with inadequate preparation, support, or if one feels things are being done to them vs. being involved.
As a doula, helping to prepare and support your client can reduce the likelihood they have a traumatic birth experience. Should they still unfortunately experience one, your ongoing support and referrals to resources can aid in healing.
Trauma, especially on-going unhealed trauma, can affect early parenting, bonding, and have long-term impacts on parenting. You have a pivotal role in preparing and educating your clients to help their entire parenting journey.
Birth Can Impact a Non-Gestational Parent Too
A dad, non-gestational parent, grandparent, or any other parent figure for the child can be impacted by the birth experience. If the birth is traumatic, scary, or they were unprepared for how birth is, it could impact how they parent.
Scary experiences can impact everyone in a different way. Witnessing a scary early start to parenting can impact bonding and engagement. These impacts both the mother and the infant.
Prenatal support and education can be key. In fact, 30 minutes of skin-to-skin on the first day of life rewires a dad’s brain rewires, according to research. Providing this information to birthing couples can help encourage short and long-term bonding.
Birth is often a big event for a day or so, but it has lasting impacts. As a doula, understanding how important birth can be will help you truly support your clients.