The type of support the doula provides helps the whole family to relax and have the most satisfying birth experience possible from pregnancy to parenthood. She nurtures and protects the mother’s experience and helps her to obtain the birth she desires. Studies have shown that with the presence of a doula there tends to be fewer interventions, a reduction in the use of pain medication and shorter labors with fewer complications. Parents feel more secure and cared for and have greater self-confidence with the presence of a doula; and there is solid research to back up these claims. You can read about it here and here.
That sounds amazing, right? But what do we actually DO? It differs from family to family, but here are 10 ways that a doula works for YOU.
#1 We get to know you and your partner...
In the months leading up to your birth we will meet a couple of times in person at your home; and I am always available by phone, text, and e-mail. This gives us ample time to not only prepare for your birth and discuss your birth plan, but also get to know one another. I want to get to know you in your daily life. How you handle stress, what makes you happy and relaxed, how your partner views their role in birth, what kind of music you like, your cravings, do you practice a certain faith or belief and so on. Getting to know the two of you and your family dynamic will help me to better serve you.
#2 We work for YOU, not your medical team...
This is important for you and your partner to know. I do not work for your provider, your nurses, or the facility you plan to birth in…I work for YOU. When we discuss your birth plan in our prenatal meetings that is my guideline to go off of. Plans can change and things may come up, but I will never take your providers side and try to convince you to do x, y, or z. I will, however, ask you how you feel about x, y, or z and encourage you to ask questions to get more information if you need it. I can help facilitate a conversation, but ultimately your decisions are YOUR decisions…and I will hold your hand through it all.
#3 We talk a lot about comfort techniques and managing the pains of labor...
In our prenatal meetings we will discuss what comforts you when you are stressed or sick. Often times this is what will comfort you when you are in labor. We discuss how to use different comfort techniques like breathing, a warm shower, counter-pressure, massage, and different labor positions to help you through each contraction. We also talk about other comfort measures that are tailored more to each individual (music, scents, prayer, and meditation to name a few). Each woman is so unique and what comforts her will be equally unique.
#4 We help you find information on up to date birth practices...
Many providers go to medical school and are taught how to deliver a baby, or nurses are taught to care for their patients a certain way due to hospital protocol. After they have practiced a certain way for 10+ years, it may be harder for them to change with the new guidelines. In the last few years new research has come out on many different practices in the birth world and you deserve to know what it says. Just like you wouldn’t want a heart transplant using procedures that are 10 years old, you don’t want to give birth using practices that are 10-50 years old.
#5 We answer the embarrassing questions, or questions you need to know the answers to NOW...
Is eating your placenta a real thing? Is it normal for my areolas to grow THAT big? These are questions that may sound embarrassing to ask; but I assure you, there is no question that is off limits or TMI for me. If there were…then I’m clearly in the wrong business. Questions also come up in between prenatal appointments with your provider and you just can’t wait until your next appointment to find out the answer. That’s a perfect time to get a hold of me. If it’s medical advice you’re seeking I’ll direct you to your provider, but if it’s any other question I will be more than happy to help you find the answer.
#6 We listen...
Are your mother, friends, or co-workers driving you crazy with advice? Did your provider discuss induction and you are devastated? Did your partner seem less than enthusiastic about the new crib bedding you found on sale? No matter what it is, I listen. Sometimes it’s a stressful prenatal appointment and other times it’s just a really bad day. Either way I am a non-judgmental listener that is there for you. Whether you are on the verge of a panic attack or so mad that you are seeing red and profanities are flying out…I’m only a phone call away, don’t hesitate.
#7 We provide continuous labor support...
As soon as my phone rings and I hear you or your partner on the other end of the line saying “I need you” I am on my way and I stay until your baby is Earth side and nursing. Unlike doctors and nurses I don’t have a shift change. I may be with you for six hours, I may be with you twenty-four hours, either way I do not leave once you are in labor. That’s one of the main differences between the support I provide and the support others provide. I don’t just check-in, I am there for you and your partner however you need me. I can help explain medical terms, I perform all sorts of comfort measures, I suggest different positions to help baby move down and progress labor; and all the while I am there reminding you that you can do it and that you are beautiful and strong…because you are.
#8 Support is for partners & family too...
Speaking of partners! They love doulas too! We are in no way there to take the place of the partner, unless it is truly needed (ex. single mother or partner on active duty). Having a doula means your partner can take a break without feeling guilty that they are leaving you. It also means that they have an extra set of hands to help. Often times partners want to help so badly and be right there in the process, but they feel they don’t know what to do or how to do it. A doula can show them a few techniques or massages and the partner feels much better knowing that they are contributing in a positive manner. There is nothing sweeter in a doula’s eyes than seeing a partner loving and comforting the mother.
#9 We do not judge you or your partner for your choices in birth, it’s truly YOUR birth...
When you are writing your birth plan, or in the delivery room and plans change, rest assured I will not judge you for the choices you make. I will help you find information on your choices, but it’s ultimately up to you and your partner on how you want to bring your precious bundle of joy into the world. Doulas are for every type of mother and every type of birth, but it’s important to find a doula that will truly support YOU. How I birth is not the way you will birth, and a good doula understands this. However your birth journey unfolds, I want you to come to the end of it with the peace and confidence that you were in the driver’s seat making the best decisions for you and your baby.
#10 We help you adjust to postpartum...
“Congratulations! You’re baby has arrived! Now we’re going to send you home with this tiny human that you have to care for, and yourself, and master it all with grace and be super mom.”
“Wait! What? I have no clue what I’m doing, I’m exhausted, and is all this bleeding still normal? Why are my breasts hard as rocks?”
Postpartum is not easy, its the fourth stage of birth and its not talked about enough. Society expects us to do it all and that is simply unrealistic! Just because you’ve had a baby doesn’t mean my work as a doula is done. I still check in on you, assist where I can, if you chose to breastfeed I help with that, and I’m still a listening ear if you need it. Postpartum depression effects roughly 20% of women…but that’s only the women that report it. Just like in pregnancy if you have questions I am still here. When families have the support of a doula their transition into parenthood tends to be much smoother.
What we DON’T do…
We don’t do clinical procedures (vaginal exams, blood pressure checks, fetal monitoring, etc.)
We don't replace your partner or other members of your family or birth team.
We don’t catch your baby (we are not midwives or doctors).
We don’t judge you or press our own agenda on you.
We don’t give out medical advice. (We truly are not medical professionals, we are birth support professionals.)
We don’t speak on your, or your partners behalf to the medical team.
We don’t change shifts, we provide continuous labor support.