Maybe you've heard a friend who LOVED her doula. Or maybe you've heard that "every woman should have a doula." What IS a doula anyway? And do you really need one?
What Do Doulas Do? ("doo-la": a greek word that means woman servant or caregiver) Labor and birth is beautiful and intense. It can also be unpredictable and stressful. A doula is trained to help women achieve the birth they desire. She is there to make labor & birth less stressful & more pleasant! She is part of the birth team. She is trained in the process of labor & birth, & comfort techniques. She has gotten to know what's important to each mom in her care. She can sometimes prevent situations mom doesn't want (and sometimes the mom & partner will not even realize they avoided one) and other times help mom navigate challenges, all with the goal of helping her have the most satisfying birth experience possible. Even the most prepared women and couples can oftentimes benefit from an experienced birth professional to help them relate what they are experiencing with what they have learned.
There are also doulas, called postpartum doulas, that specifically work with moms in the months after a baby is born, supporting and serving her as she navigates the early "baby days".
"Like travel guides in a foreign country, birth and postpartum doulas help support new families through the life changing experience of having a baby!" ~ DONA International
A Birth Doula will...
make sure you know what to expect & your many options before birth
answer questions and address any concerns you have during your pregnancy & postpartum.
support you during labor & birth. She can give guidance over the phone as needed when you are in early labor at home. When you're ready, she can meet you at home or hospital to support you. She will keep the environment helpful to mom and offer comfort measures such as cool rags, heat, counter pressure, or suggest beneficial positions & movements. She will remind you of things you learned beforehand (how to relax, how to push, etc.). She is there for dad, too, making sure he is eating & drinking, taking breaks he needs, assuring him, and answering his questions or discussing his concerns. She will help you understand any issues that arise during labor as well as the options you have. She also understands the importance of an "undisturbed birth" and will give you privacy to labor while 'holding the space'.
assist immediately afterbirth, including helping to establish a healthy breastfeeding latch
A Birth Doula will not...
be your midwife! Though we often share the same perspective of birth as midwives in that we believe birth is a normal physiological process, we do not give medical advice or care, or conduct medical procedures (such as blood pressure checks, cervical exams, etc...) like midwives. Doulas are not healthcare providers.
be your decision maker. We don't make decisions during your birth - It's your birth! We respect that and support your decisions.
be your mother. Ha. We do care about you, but it's not our place to tell the providers what to do and not do to you. But we do help you speak for yourself! We let you know when you have options, and ask you questions to help you process what you want, and remind you when to speak up (because it can sometimes be hard to remember that when you are working on labor).
be a magician. What? Doulas do decrease cesarean and epidural rates, and increase satisfaction with birth for mother and partners, but unfortunately, we are not magicians and cannot magically give you the birth you want! We can not the physiological process, or the natural affects of the birth place or care provider you have chosen. So, please, choose a birth place & care provider that supports you in the birth you want!
be a childbirth class replacement. You still "gotta take that class & read those books" - educate yourself. You are one doing the work of labor; come with knowledge and skills. We can direct you to resources, and encourage and support you toward your goals! (Some doulas do include childbirth classes as part of their package.)
~ women are less likely to have pain medications, pitocin, forcep & vacuum deliveries, and cesarean sections. ~ moms are more likely to have shorter labors as well as an improved satisfaction with their birth, postpartum psychological state, breastfeeding relationship, and newborn interaction. ~ dads take fewer breaks away from mom, stay closer to her & touch her more. Source: evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/
“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” John H. Kennell
~ But can't my husband/partner just support me instead of a doula? He can absolutely support you! And for you, he may be all that you want or need. But studies have shown it increases satisfaction for both of you if you have continuous support. Partners often have limited knowledge and experience with birth and procedures, where a doula will be familiar with these and can inform you throughout the process. Also, like moms, this is an emotional journey for partners and they can benefit from a doulas' support. Doulas and partners provide the best support when they work as a team! "Research has shown that the most positive birth experiences for fathers were ones where they had continuous support by a doula or a midwife. In the McGrath and Kennell study, the women and their partners who had a doula overwhelmingly rated the support of their doula as positive—with 93% rating their experience with the doula as very positive, and 7% as positive. In other studies, fathers have said that when they had labor support from a midwife or doula, things were explained to them, their questions were answered, their labor support efforts were guided and effective, and they could take breaks from the emotional intensity of the labor without abandoning their laboring partner." (evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/)
I must admit here that I understand the desire for just the two of you. My husband was my only labor support during the last 2 of my 5 births. I loved it being just us. However, I was in the comfort and privacy of my own home, my labor was super quick, and I knew my midwife was on her way. But if labor were to be longer or more difficult, I had prepared for others to support us. And I am glad my midwife showed up in time to catch my last child - I needed her assistant to help me "blow" baby out! So, I did have additional support right at the end. *smiles*
~ Can't my midwife serve as my doula? If you are having a home or birth center birth, then yes, your midwife and assistants may serve as your continuous labor support. Home birth midwives usually provide continual emotional & physical support. But midwives don't all practice the same and some are very busy, so talk with your midwife about her practice & the kind of support you are wanting. She should be able to tell you if you need to hire a doula.
If you are having a hospital birth, then no, they will not likely be able to serve as your doula. Midwives serving in hospitals are often caring for many women. They may have other laboring women in the hospital or women to see in their offices for prenatal/postnatal appointments.
~ What about the nurses? Can't they support me instead of a doula? I'll quote Evidence Based Birth here AGAIN (by the way, Evidence Based Birth is a great resource for moms!) Their summation on a study here: "Nurses provide support when they can, but research has shown that labor and delivery nurses can only spend a limited amount of time in each client’s room. In one research study that took place in the U.S., nurses spent about 31% of a person’s labor in the room with them. The majority of the time that nurses were in the laboring person’s room, they were doing direct clinical care (such as administering medications or performing interventions), maintaining equipment, applying and assessing the electronic fetal monitor, or documenting at the computer. For 12% of each person’s labor, the nurse provided labor support including emotional, physical, or informational support, or advocacy. More experienced nurses were more likely to spend time providing emotional support." ~ More Questions? Call or message me!