“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” -Dr. John H. Kennell
Ok, so a doula isn’t a drug, but a doula can provide relief like a drug but without the side effects.
Really, what is a doula? (doo-la)
In a simple answer, a doula is a trained and certified professional who assists couples as they prepare for childbirth and postpartum.
Birth doulas provide emotional, educational, and physical support during labor, birth and postpartum.
Doulas support all births in all birthing locations including home births, hospital births and birth center births. A doula becomes the non-medical and continuous support in a couple’s birth team.
Ok, I said that was the simple answer, but I’m sure you still have a ton of questions if you aren’t familiar with a doula’s work.
As a DONA certified birth doula, I can tell you, I can define my role and differently for each birth. It never looks the same except that I am there, supporting a couple as they transition into a new role and bring their baby earthside. (see last week’s blog)
Each couple uniquely has their own desires, religious beliefs, values and wishes that they want observed or practiced at birth and my role is to see to it that these things happen, so long as there are no medical reasons that would change them. Most times, these birth wishes are simple things, ones the couple needs to feel safe and supported, to birth and gently transition into this beautiful role as a parent. After all, birth is similar to sex…think about what it takes to make that happen! Watch this silly video if you can!
Ok, the role we have clarified a bit but let’s talk about what we are NOT and how we fit into this wonderful circle of support that each couple has for birth.
Common Misunderstandings about Birth Doulas
I’m hiring a midwife. She will be with me throughout labor and will be my coach.
A doula and midwife are two very different roles and yes, you need both. Both provide together a complete circle of care and support. Remember, your midwives are your medical provider and will monitor you and your baby’s health (this does their role no justice – a future blog for them). Likely, they will not be arriving, nor is it recommended for you to go, early in labor.
Doulas generally join the mom and partner before the midwife and help them comfortably labor until it is time to bring the midwives in based on their recommendation or protocols or leave for the birthing location.
I’m going to be at a hospital with nurses who will coach me through labor and be in my room the whole time. They are like birth doulas…right?
Nurses are wonderful people who have MANY roles and many patients and demands and cannot give you continuous care. Research has shown that birthing couples are generally alone for over 70% of their time in labor.
My partner/sister/mom will be my labor coach(es), we don’t need a birth doula.
First, let it be known that a doula does not replace your partner. Your partner knows you best and we as doulas cannot replace that. A doula is a birth specialist (not expert) and knows birth best and has experienced it herself and more than most people.
A doula supports the partner, allowing them time to take a break if they need one, rest and shower during long labors, without guilt, all while ensuring that the birthing momma has continuous support and is never alone unless requested. The doula spends time prenatally teaching the partner how to best support the birthing mama so they feel equipped.
A sister and mother is a wonderful gift. I have both, I know. However, they weren’t what I needed for support and in the same breath, I didn’t want them that involved in the hard parts. I wanted them to meet their niece/nephew/grandbaby once it was all over. Plus, when we are emotionally attached, it is hard to see our loved ones sometimes in discomfort. This can be for some traumatic.
Birth doulas only support natural, unmedicated births.
We as doulas are trained and ready to support all births. As a doula, I have supported births in hospitals, homes, and birth centers. I have supported unmedicated, vaginal deliveries, cesarean births and vaginal births with epidurals.
Support isn’t only physical as noted earlier. Support comes in many forms and without being repetitive, can be as simple as holding space while the couple talks through choices when birth presents something different.
Birth doula’s role is to advocate and will speak to the medical provider if it goes against my “plan”.
(the record scratches) No, a doula cannot, should not and if me, will not do this. However, a good doula would have taught the parents how to ask the right questions to make an informed decision or sometimes, simply asking for time or suggestions. If the doula observes the birthing couple struggling, I know I will ask them “Did you understand what he/she said?” and likely, they just need a couple minutes to process the new information and construct questions.
I’ve had previous babies, I don’t need a birth doula.
Certainly, our first babies generally are our longest, hardest births but not always! And we know birth presents what it wants. Likely your births will look different and your needs are different. Caring and preparing when you already have littles at home is different then expecting your first. I have attended a birth of a fourth time couple and based on the family’s needs, Dad stayed home with the children while I supported mom through labor/birth. Again, individuals needs and different from their previous births.
Birth doulas are expensive or We cannot afford a doula.
We do charge for our time and charge for our value. Certainly we may not fit in your initial budget but I always give this wonderful suggestion if that is the case: Ask each person attending your baby shower to contribute $5 – $10 towards a doula instead of a book or card. Trust me, this will be money well spent.