What Is A Doula?
Doulas Are Professionals
A birth doula is professionally trained in how to support families during pregnancy, labor, birth, and immediate postpartum. Doulas do not perform any medical procedures but instead provide you with continuous emotional, physical, and informational support.
Doulas Are Agenda Free
Birth doulas do not have an agenda, give advice, or assume there is a “right” way to give birth. Your goals are their goals, and they offer education and information so you can make informed decisions that are congruent with your family’s needs and values.
Doulas Are Flexible
A birth doula is flexible and knows how to navigate birth’s unexpected twists and turns. If unforeseen circumstances should arise, your doula remains calm, keeps you informed on what is happening, and helps you adapt to changing circumstances. Doulas are attentive to your hopes and fears, respectful of your choices, and inspire confidence in your ability to labor and birth.
Doulas Support Partners
A doula does not replace the vital role of partners or other family members. Instead, birth doulas encourage partners to engage in the process with greater confidence and effectiveness and relieve partners of the pressure to know and do everything by themselves.
Doulas Work Collaboratively
A doula knows how to work collaboratively with medical staff even while advocating for your rights, needs, and preferences during labor. A doula works for you, not for the hospital, so their care can be individualized to fit your needs.
What Does A Doula Do?
People frequently ask us what a birth doula actually does, and our answer goes something like, “Well, it depends. We tailor our services to each client’s particular needs, but basically, we offer families professional support during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum.”
While this answer does faithfully represent our services and dedication to individualized care, it does not always satisfy the inquiring mind that asked. Often what the person is wondering about is the hands-on nitty-gritty of what we do when we’re at a birth.
So, in an attempt to make our doula skills more transparent and understandable, here’s a list of things we typically do for clients who are in labor (please note that this is not a complete list, nor does it include the types of support offered during pregnancy or in the immediate postpartum):
- We answer questions and provide reassurance.
- We show you all the ways a birth ball can be your friend.
- We squeeze aching hips and apply counter-pressure to sore backs.
- We encourage partners to bring on the love.
- We help you stay in the moment and take it one contraction at a time.
- We fill the tub and get the shower ready.
- We laugh at your jokes and make some of our own.
- We encourage, encourage, encourage.
- We hold hands, ease fears, and normalize the birth process.
- If you hit “a wall,” we help you climb right on over it.
- We slow down communications with medical staff and ask important questions.
- We respect any and all decisions you make (no judgment anywhere).
- We remind the hospital staff of your hopes and preferences.
- We guide you on how to use your breath during contractions.
- We listen with compassion to what you and your partner are thinking and feeling.
- We massage your shoulders and help you release tension.
- We suggest positions that help labor progress.
- We put heating pads and ice packs where you want them most.
- We dig into acupressure points and give awesome foot rubs.
- We check in with you to see what’s working and what’s not.
- We help create a positive birth atmosphere.
- We inform you about the risks and benefits of various medical procedures.
- We provide evidence-based information so you can make informed choices.
- We quench dry mouths and feed hungry tummies.
- We strive to help you reach your childbirth goals.
- We know our way around a hospital room and can find things quick.
- If you’re using a particular childbirth preparation method, we use it, too.
- We let you know about potential alternatives to medical interventions.
- If something doesn’t go as planned, we help you ease into and accept this change.
- We offer partners much-needed breaks.
- We mop sweaty brows with cool wet towels.
- We dim lights, get warm blankets, and hush beeping machines.
- We use positions and rebozos to get babies in a good spot.
- We offer soothing words and visualizations to help you sink in.
- We suggest a variety of positions for the pushing phase.
- We take photos to capture memories of this life-changing event.
- We stay up all night until your baby is born.
Who Hires A Birth Doula?
Virtually anyone preparing for the experience of having a baby can benefit from the presence of a birth doula, including people who are looking for support with:
Unmedicated Natural Birth
Out Of Hospital Birth
Epidural Assisted Birth
Doulas can enhance the labor and birth experience of people who want to use pain relief medications by providing useful information about epidural procedures, suggesting appropriate times to receive an epidural, recommending in-bed positions that enhance labor’s progression, and offering advice on how to minimize the “cascade effect” leading to undesired interventions.
Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)
A birth doula may be one of the most important and effective resources available to people striving for a VBAC. Doulas can help you “leave no stone unturned” in your effort to have a vaginal birth and help you to navigate the mental and emotional uncertainty that often accompanies this path. A doula offers indispensable reassurance and encouragement as you strive for the VBAC experience.