What is a doula? A doula is a trained professional that provides emotional support, comfort measures, information and advocacy for the family. The doula’s purpose is to support women to have a safe and empowering birthing experience.
What does that look like? It’s sometimes hard to put the true value of a doula into words, but you will feel the value in the subtleties of the birthing day. It’s that we know intuitively how to support the ever changing needs of a woman through the course of her labor, from the loving encouragement to the sip of water to a firm touch to the need for a position change.
You might see your doula as a birth “project planner,” a coach, a mother figure, or an educator. Whatever the role, a doula is there for you and you alone, so let’s uncover what you need from your doula together.
When does a doula join a woman in labor? They normally ask that you call at the first hint of labor and stay in close contact throughout that period until you are ready for me to join. It is different for everyone but I recommend that a doula join you when you have noticed the shift into active labor. This is to ensure that you are in fact on the “Labor Train” and not experiencing prodromal labor. We also don’t want to inadvertently scare away your progress when it’s most sensitive in the early hours. That is the time to spend with your partner, relaxing and getting the oxytocin going. A good doula will however be in contact virtually with guidance and support before their physical arrival.
How do I choose the right doula? The most important thing is to feel a connection with your doula. This person is going to be holding space for you to moan, groan and transform, so you want to really like them. Ask yourself what you envision for your birth. Is there laughter? Is it spiritual and intentional? We all have similar “doula tools” and our differentiators are mostly how we interact with the world.
Does having a doula diminish my partner’s role? NO! The doula is not only there for mom, but there for the partner as well. The partner knows the mom and the doula knows birth, so their relationship is a collaboration in supporting mom in the best way. AND, the doula is there to normalize birth and offer support to the partner in times of stress.
I am pretty sure I want an epidural. Do I need a doula? An epidural can be a great tool for pain management. Keep in mind that there is still discomfort in early labor before the epidural is even an option. Additionally 1 in 10 epidurals do not work, so a doula is great insurance. Your doula can also help with things like effective positioning and pushing techniques that are specific to moms with epidurals.
What if my baby is born by cesarean? A doula can help your family understand the procedure and the options surrounding it (requesting that conversation is limited among the staff, whether arms can be free, is there a clear drape, etc.) A doula will remind everyone involved that birth is a deeply important experience, not simply a medical event.
What’s the difference between doula and midwife? Midwives are medical providers, trained and licensed to attend birth. They have the tools and expertise to ensure that baby and mama are safe. Doulas do not perform clinical tasks or exams and do not replace medical care providers. Our focus is the emotional health and physical comfort of the mother.