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Would You Hire a Dude-la?

Photograph by Getty Images

Men in the delivery room is nothing new. New fathers pushed their way through the delivery room doors starting in the 1970s to become such a widespread practice that now you're a jerk if you don't show up for your kids' births. A century before that, male doctors took over the business of birth from midwives—sometimes the only female in the room was the laboring mother-to-be.

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These days, birth is very much in the realm of the female. There are still plenty of male ob-gyns attending births. But midwives and doulas, whose numbers are on the rise, are so overwhelmingly female that men don't register a single percent among the ranks. And yet, male doulas exist. As do male midwives.

The New York Times Well blog recently featured David Goldman, a doula in Bellingham, Wash. Goldman received his doula certification last year and has supported 15 women through the tedium, fear and pain that often is part of giving birth to a baby.

There are women who, for whatever reason, are simply more comfortable around men.

Goldman, 40, sometimes gets push-back from nurses at hospitals. When one client's planned home birth turned into a hospital C-section, Goldman had to convince nurses to let him scrub up so he could support the new mom through the surgery while the woman's husband got his sea-legs in the operating room.

Some argue the strength of a male can help in keeping counter-pressure on the labor mom's back, a comfort for some women going through contractions. But I think that's not the right way to argue for male doulas (or "dude-las" as they're unnecessarily and cringily being called). There are women who, for whatever reason, are simply more comfortable around men. Still other women don't care—male, female, as long as they connect enough to trust they'll be supported. It's not as if you're randomly assigned a doula—you get to choose.

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If Goldman or some other brother seems like the person who is going to help you with your birth plan, support you when you're feeling weak and give a decent back rub to boot, I say, "He's hired!"

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