There’s a lot of buzz going around about doulas. Maybe you’re entirely new to the concept, maybe you hired one for your last birth. Before I go into all things doula, let me preface this by stating my obvious bias: I am a birth doula and I’m 10000% biased. That said, I have hired a doula for my own birth and can speak to a doula’s usefulness from a birthing person’s perspective, too.
So what is a doula?? A birth doula is a labor and delivery support person. Doulas go through specialized training, often take certification courses, read many books and articles about birth, and generally love birthing people and the process of birth. Doulas learn massage techniques for helping birthing people cope with labor sensations, they learn all kinds of positions beneficial for different phases and stages of labor, they learn problem solving for helping labor progress and helping birthing people cope. Doulas can provide additional support for the partner of the birthing person too: things like offering water and food or a nap break, or even helping the partner to do some physical support in a way the doula has noticed the birthing person finds comforting.
The misconception I hear the most about doulas is that they’re only useful for a planned unmedicated/out of hospital birth. While they do offer a ton of support for a person choosing that birth experience, doulas have a wealth of knowledge about the interventions present in a hospital birth and can provide support during an epidural birth and a cesarean birth. One of the biggest issues with an epidural is that the birthing person can no longer move freely which can stall the baby’s descent and labor, introducing the possibility for more and more interventions. A doula can help adjust the birthing person with a peanut ball or make suggestions for bringing the baby down. During a cesarean birth, many people feel nervous or nauseous and want an extra set of hands to keep them calm and feeling supported. Also, once the baby is born, if they need to be separated from the birthing person, the partner’s primary job is to stay with the baby often leaving the birthing person alone in the operating room with the medical staff. A doula can stay with the birthing person (hospital permitting).
Another myth I’d like to dispel is that a repeat birther cannot really use a doula. Many people pregnant with their second babies find a doula useful for the same reasons a first timer would; birth is different every time, so even if you’ve given birth before there’s no guarantee that you’ll know how to handle your next birth the same way. A doula has seen and learned about all kinds of birth outcomes so they feel more prepared for curve balls than parents do most of the time. Some pregnant people giving birth for an additional time hire a sibling doula to take care of their older child(ren) primarily.
Most doulas have additional certifications or skills to offer to your birth experience. Many are licensed massage therapists, birth photographers, lactation consultants, post partum doulas, childbirth educators, or certified to encapsulate your placenta if you’re interested. All doulas have a literal list of resources to refer their clients to for every possible need: best nursing bras, pediatricians, baby chiropractors, lactation consultants, day care options, prenatal yoga, childbirth classes, etc…
A doula can:
-help you come up with your birth wish list / birth preferences
-educate your intuition for any number of concerns a pregnant person or new parent may have
-support you physically in labor
-stay with you throughout your labor and delivery and for several hours afterward
-remind you of your wishes during labor and help you adjust to new needs as they present themselves during birth
-help establish breastfeeding
-keep your partner as involved as they’d like to be in the birth
A doula cannot:
-perform any medical procedure: doulas do not have medical training
-speak on behalf of you or your partner to the care providers
-push their personal preferences on you and your birth
-judge your decisions
The research shows that doulas can reduce your time in labor by up to half. Do you think a doula would be helpful for you? Let us know in the comments.