So what does a doula do, exactly?
Although it is true that no one knows exactly what your birth will be like, you have the ability to create the best possible circumstances to ensure that you feel comfortable and confident during your upcoming birth. As a doula, I not only support birthing women with a wide variety of time-tested techniques that help ensure their comfort, but my doula services also emphasize informed decision-making, helping dads and partners understand the birthing woman's needs, and practicing mindful presence as a way to navigate the journey to becoming a mother.
If you've done your research, you have likely run across information like the following:
A birth doula….
- Recognizes birth as a profound life experience that the birthing mother will remember throughout her life
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
- Assists the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their desires for birth
- Stays by the side of the woman throughout labor and birth
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions both before as well as during labor
- Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and her clinical care providers
- Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of her birth experience
- Encourages the woman’s partner to participate at his/her own comfort level
A birth doula does NOT….
- Perform any clinical tasks such as vaginal exams, fetal heart tone monitoring, etc.
- Provide any medical advice
- Make decisions for the couple or to speak to the clinical staff on the couple’s behalf regarding their decisions
- Does not replace the dad/partner in his/her role
***The above information is adapted from DONA International (www.dona.org)
But what does this all mean? What does a doula really do during labor and birth?
- During pregnancy, a doula can serve as a tremendous resource for information related to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the postpartum period
- A doula helps to time surges and birthing sensations to determine when to go to the hospital, birthing center, or call your midwife
- Having a home water birth? A doula can help you set up the birth pool and prepare your home environment for your birthing day
- Having a hospital birth? A doula can help ease the transition from home to hospital. In most cases, it is ideal to labor at home for as long as possible. A doula can help you feel as comfortable and supported as possible at home, and make sure you know where to go and what to do upon arrival at the hospital
- What's your partner supposed to do if you have a doula? Doulas, birthing mamas, and their partners are all part of a close-knit team. A doula helps mom's partner understand how best to support the laboring woman. They often call and text at the beginning of labor to update the doula on how things are going, and provide mom's partner with tips for supporting her. After the doula arrive, they often take turns filling water glasses and getting cool cloths for mom. And when mom's partner needs a break, a doula is there to ensure that the laboring woman is seamlessly supported
- A doula will help mom's partner feel confident. It's not uncommon for dads/mom's partner to feel like they don't know what to do while mom works through labor and birth, but they often say that having me there helped them become more sure of themselves and trusting of the birth process
- A doula will attend to even your smallest need, from giving you a cool cloth, to massaging your hips and lower back, to reminding you to breathe as you negotiate the flow of labor surges. I'll give you my shoulders and arms, and believe in your strength, courage, and ability to gracefully birth your baby
- Want to watch TV between contractions? I can do that, too...and I can help you with that pesky playlist that you developed in the last weeks of pregnancy
- A doula will help capture on film that moment that you first meet your baby
- A doula will help clean up after a home or birth center birth (no one ever said birth was tidy). The last thing mom and dad/her partner need to do is be concerned about labor laundry!
- A doula will help you work through initial breastfeeding. Even if you've had a baby and breastfed before, the first few nursing sessions can be tricky. I will help you through this important bonding time with your baby, getting baby a few drops of precious colostrum and stimulating oxytocin and milk production
What if I want an epidural?
A doula's role is to support a birthing mother along her personal journey to motherhood. While it is true that most women seek the support of a doula because they would like a natural or non-medicated birth, this is not always the case. Everybody experiences the sensations of birth differently, and a doula is there to ensure that your birth is yours. During prenatal meetings in the weeks before baby is born, I will go over the risks and benefits of epidurals and other interventions, for informational purposes (not to be taken as medical advice). I will provide you with resources that you can begin to develop a clear understanding of what choices will best ensure that the birth of your baby is a positive experience. My aim is to assist you in making informed choices that work in service of your birth plan and to facilitate communication with your care provider.