~ If you’re in new territory, bring a good map. A doula knows the terrain. ~
What is a Doula?
Doula: a woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth. From Greek doulē, female helper. First Known Use: 1981 Merriam-Webster.com.
Doulas are a fairly modern invention, filling the position an experienced family member or friend would have in earlier times by providing support to the laboring woman and her family during birth.
The basics to expect from hiring a doula:
- assistance with a birth plan
- comfort techniques during the labor process
- advocacy for your birth wishes
- non-judging support for your wishes
- basic assistance immediately after the birth
In addition some doulas provide prenatal services like yoga or massage and are available for services after the birth such as postpartum doula services, breastfeeding counseling or lactation consultation and placenta encapsulation.
Do Doulas only attend natural births/home births?
Doulas are professionally trained to assist all varieties of births. Doulas become doulas to support mothers regardless of home, hospital, midwife, OB, natural, epidural or cesarean birth. Doulas do report they are more in demand for hospital rather than home births but the ones I know love supporting all of the above.
Do I need a doula?
All birthing mothers need support. It is a very personal decision what that support will look like. Discuss with your partner what kind of birth team is right for you. Continuous labor support can be exhausting for a partner. If it is your first child together, a partner may not know what to expect. A doula removes some of the guess work by providing breaks for your partner which can enable them to be more present. Doulas also know what birth looks and feels like which can be very reassuring for both parents and other family members.
What does a doula DO during the birth?
Every doula is different and brings varied levels of experience and tools with them but across the board, here are the basics:
- keeping mom hydrated (and dad too on occasion)
- putting on that music you requested
- reminding nurses or family members you requested: quiet, low intervention, spontaneous pushing, etc.
- cool wash cloths when the work gets tough
- hot wash cloths when the pushing begins
- essential oils for all occasions
- reminding you “YOU CAN DO IT” when you forget
- suggesting positions and comfort measures for all phases and stages
- assisting partners with being the support person they want to be
- letting dads/partners take a nap or snack or bathroom break if they need it
- reminding others to “please be quiet” when you’re in the middle of a contraction
… and this was the short list!
What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
A doula is a trained labor support person, a midwife is a medical professional.
Midwives usually bring an assistant, however, neither of these professionals are there to provide labor support. They are responsible for the safe passage of mother and baby with fetal heart rate monitoring, charting and delivery assistance. Back rubs usually aren’t on the menu but if you or your baby need medical support they’re on top of it.
Doulas support wherever it’s needed from massage and snacks to laundry and walking the dogs. A doula will stay by the mothers side and coach her confidence through each bump in the road. A doula does not do clinical care such as vaginal exams, blood pressure checks or fetal heart tones.
Will a doula replace my partner?
No, partners will always know the mother better than the doula does, doulas just know birth better than the partner is likely to. An experienced doula will help your partner find ways to support the birth to the best of their ability and comfort level.
I have more questions….
If you have more questions don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to answer questions via email or phone and if I don’t have the answer I may have the resources that do!