What is a Doula?
The word doula is a Greek word that means "woman who serves."
Often when I tell people I am a doula, they say a “Doo-what?” DONA defines a doula as a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.
A doula will work with your partner, and work alongside your medical staff to help you navigate your pregnancy and birth process.
As a birth doula, I take a 3-step approach at ensuring you are supported completely.
First, you are supported during pregnancy.
During this exciting time, I will get to know you and your partner through multiple meetings. These meetings are to help you prepare for your birth. We will discuss your goals and your concerns. I will cover how you can best care for you and your baby during pregnancy, including Spinning Babies techniques. Spinning Babies is an approach that addresses the soft tissue of the mother's body. This is done by using position to bring balance to the soft tissue thus making room for the baby to move as needed, and eventually move into an optimal position for birth. I will help you express your desired birth through a birth framework (also called a birth plan), and the same should you desire to breastfeed. I can offer guidance on your registry, and on what to pack in your hospital bag, as well as what you will need in your home for your recovery. I will offer any referrals if you should need. During this time I am available via phone call and texts to address any questions or concerns you have.
The next step is labor.
When labor begins, I can come to your house and offer support and reassurance as you decide when you are ready to head to the birthing facility, if your home is not where you intend to birth. This will be in conjunction with your medical team’s recommendations. Once we arrive at the birthing facility, I will stay with you the entirety of your labor. It is during this time that I will do all I can to help you feel supported, calm, informed and confident. I will use comfort measures from my training such as massage, rebozo, hot and cold packs, breathing, positioning (Spinning Babies), and guided relaxation. I will assist you while you use the tub or shower, to bring you comfort. I will stay for a short period (if you wish) after the baby is born. It is during this time that I can assist with initial feeding.
The last step comes when you are home.
I will visit you in your home 1–2 weeks postpartum. Here we will reflect on your experience. We will discuss any challenges you are facing and talk about how you’re adjusting. I will offer any referrals should you need.
Why use a doula?
There are many benefits to using a doula. I think one of the most important benefits to the mom and partner is that having a doula allows you to relax and focus on your birth and your baby. The second benefit I feel is vital is building your confidence to be flexible. No matter how well planned out your birth is, there is always a chance you’ll need to be flexible; some things are out of our control. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t in control of the decision making. A doula’s job is to ensure you are receiving the information you need to make the proper decisions for your care.
Below are a few other benefits:
- Moms who have doulas are less likely to request epidurals (and other pain medications) and less likely to have a cesarean
- Reduced use of Pitocin (labor inducing medication) as well as use of forceps and vacuum
- Decreased anxiety and increase of positive reflection of birth experience
- Increase movement during labor
- Improved postpartum health
- Positive self-esteem
- Increase lactation support
“As a perinatal mental health clinician I often encourage clients, particularly those with a history of fertility challenges, to consider hiring a doula for their birth. Research shows that the continuous presence of labor support offers moms and babies numerous positive outcomes including but not limited to shorter labor time, increased patient satisfaction, higher APGAR scores, lower c-sectionrates, and more positive feelings about birth which offer a protective effect against postpartum depression and anxiety. Doulas with knowledge about fertility treatment experiences, infertility and loss offer a unique perspective and understanding around the complex emotions that can come up around birth and the postpartum- They can serve not only as a support but also a link to specialty mental health professionals, connecting clients sooner so the whole family unit can achieve optimal emotional wellness sooner rather than later.” Catharine McDonald, MS, NCC, LPC Growing Well Counseling
Doulas and the Partner
The birth partner can be anyone: a spouse or significant other, a parent or sibling, or a friend. While having a birth partner isn’t necessary to having a positive birth experience, the partner’s experience also matters. They too should be having a positive experience.
The birth partner is really important, and, the birth partner is like a junior doula! The reason for this is that the person who is there as your partner really loves you. Because of this love they have for you and the baby, they already have all the skills they need to be a fantastic coach. They just need to know what to do. This is why partners and doulas make a great team. We have the knowledge and experience and the partners have the willingness and enthusiasm to support you in every way you need.