You or someone you love is pregnant have a lot of decisions to make. Some you know already know about and some have yet to surface. As you are doing some research on birth option in the US… or maybe you were talking to a trusted source the suggestion to hire a doula came up and now you are wondering if that’s really necessary for you and your birth.
You are wondering what difference could that make? Perhaps you’re wondering if you would even feel comfortable with a “stranger” in the room with you during such a vulnerable moment. One of the most challenging decisions you have to make will be deciding who will be present during the birth of your baby.
If you are human, you probably want someone that is supportive there with you, like a spouse, family member, or close friend. The question is, “Do they, along with your medical care team, make your birth team complete?” I urge you to consider one more birth team member. A doula is, “A companion who supports a birthing person during labor and birth. Birth doulas are trained to provide continuous, one-on-one care, as well as information, physical support, and emotional support to birthing persons and their partners.” Pediatrician, researcher and founder of DONA International, Dr. John Kennell was quoted saying, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” As a doula I hear these questions often. I’ll answer the ones I hear most often for you now.
Q: Why do I “need” a doula if I have my Midwive/OB, nurse, or my birth partner?
A: One of the main benefits a doula can offer her client is continuous one-on-one care and support. Knowing that someone who is experienced in birth will be by your side the entire time through the exciting and unknown moments is the best comfort and reassurance anyone could ask for. Medical care providers (midwives, OBs, nurses, etc.) are great but they cannot be with you for the entirety of your labor. That is quite frankly what a doula is there for.
A birth partner is likely able to be with you for your entire labor and can give great emotional support but it’s very likely that they are not as familiar with what’s happening during birth as a doula is so that limits them. A doula will fill in those gaps and complete a fantastic birth team.
Q: What will a doula do for me?
A: Well, that’s a loaded question! The list could go on and on but the short answer is she will support your needs and wants. In fact, the word doula loosely translates into “a woman who serves.” During pregnancy she builds a trusting relationship with you while answering questions you may have and helping you to prepare for birth. During labor and birth she provides you with encouragement, reassurance, and natural pain management through the use of many different tools or techniques such as massage, counter pressure, or a rebozo to name a few. She also follows up with you postpartum to make sure you are still supported and have the resources you need to make a healthy transition into parenting.
Q: During my birth, I think I want to __?__?__?__ but I’m just not sure I can and don’t know what to do... can having a doula help with that!?
A: Absolutely! And don’t feel bad. We don’t even have Home Economics Class in school anymore… there’s definitely no Labor & Birth Class. So, a childbirth education class is a great step to take to learn about birth itself but a doula is perfect to really discuss anything you may have doubts about, reinforce what you know about birth, or inform you about things you may not know. You have so many choices for your birth. Your doula will help you sort through all your options. Through helpful information and empowerment she will remind you that your body was designed to birth. This combination will make you feel better prepared and that leads to the self-confidence needed to experience birth the way you will perceive it as positive.
Q: I’m a non-confrontational person but I know what I want and don’t want. Will a doula communicate what I want to my medical staff for me?
A: A doula will definitely help to facilitate communication. She most likely will not talk for you, but that’s not really what’s needed. I love listening to birth stories and I’ve heard a lot! And after listening to many, many stories I’ve heard so many women say they did not feel heard during their birth experience and that sucks. A doula will be sure that she knows exactly what your preferences are and that they are known by everyone supporting your birth. I call it “slowing down the moment”. In a moment when things are moving fast and something you want hangs in the balance of the next few decisions a doula has a way of bringing everyone’s focus back to you, the person in labor, and creating a space where you feel safe to express your desires, questions, or concerns.
Having a doula will not only improve the way you are able to communicate with and be heard by to your medical staff but it will ensure you fully understand what your medical team is saying to you. As you are laboring it can become difficult to focus on anything other than getting through your next contraction. When a medical staff says something you missed or didn’t understand a doula can explain it to you clearly so that you are fully aware of what’s happening during your labor and birth and you are still in control of your experience.
Q: What about my birth partner, does a doula take their place?
A: It’s a common misconception that the doula is only there to support the mother. The doula views every member in the room as the birth team and each person plays an important role. So, doulas support the partner so that the partner is better able to support the mother, which leads to decreased tension and improves your birth experience. The question becomes how can I best support your birth partner? For some partners supporting them means being fully hands on with you because they are not comfortable with the thought that they may not do something right and they want to know you are well cared for and for others supporting them is teaching them during pregnancy and providing in the moment suggestions for things they can do to support you during labor and birth. As a doula I am comfortable with either position because at the end of the day whatever you like, I love!
Aside from all the facts and statistics of the amazing benefits a doula can give a family it is really all about the confidence the mother is given when she is properly cared for and supported by a doula. Whether bolstering confidence in a first time mother or helping a mother overcome a past traumatic birth experience, providing doula support by supporting her informed decisions in any way possible is truly win/win. If you think you are ready to add that kind of support to your birth Viumbe is here for you!