What Is A Birth Doula?
A birth doula is trained in how to support women and families during pregnancy, the labor process, and the immediate postpartum. She does not perform any medical procedures. Instead she provides you with services that offer continuous emotional, mental, and physical support. A doula does not force her beliefs of what makes for an ideal birth experience onto her clients. Your goals are her goals, and she offers education and information so you can make informed decisions that are line up with your family’s values.
A doula’s skills provide birth plan development, pain relief and relaxation techniques, optimal fetal positioning, counter pressure and labor massage, effective positioning for labor and birth, visualization techniques, hospital advocacy, breastfeeding support, and much more. A birth doula is flexible and knows how to navigate birth’s unexpected twists and turns. If unforeseen circumstances should arise, a doula remains calm, keeps you informed on what is happening, and helps you adapt to changing circumstances.
A doula does not replace the important role of the father, partner, or other family members. Rather, she encourages fathers and partners to engage in the process with greater confidence and effectiveness and relieves them of the pressure to know and do everything. A doula knows how to collaborate with hospital staff even as she advocates for your needs and preferences during labor.
Benefits of a Doula
The World Health Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists studies show that a doula’s presence during labor and birth results in the following:
- reduction in the rate of cesareans
- reduction in epidural requests
- reduction in the use of pitocin (a contraction induction method)
- reduction in vacuum assisted deliveries
- shorter labors
- an increase in successful breastfeeding and bonding
- a reduction in “baby blues” and postpartum depression
How Doulas Work With Dads & Partners
The role of the father or partner during labor is essential. The laboring woman needs to know that her husband or partner is there for her, and that they are on this journey together. A doula encourages fathers and partners to be the primary source of emotional support and does not attempt to replace the partner’s role.
Even the most attentive partner may be overwhelmed by all that is involved in the laboring process. A doula’s knowledge, skills, and expertise allow fathers and partners to be less pressured and more present. A doula can offer partners helpful tips along the way and make it possible for partners to take much needed breaks.
How Doulas Work With Medical Staff
An experienced doula knows how to create good rapport with your nurses, midwives, and doctors while simultaneously advocating for your choices, needs, and desires. (I have specifically worked towards creating these valuable relationships with Highland Park Hospital, Lake Forest Hospital, and Kenosha area Hospitals.)
A doula helps you to voice your needs and wishes without being disrespectful, and she works to maintain the delicate balance between respecting hospital protocols and ensuring your autonomy.
Who Hires A Birth Doula?
Anyone who is preparing for labor and delivery can benefit from having a doula present at their birth, including:
People Wanting A Natural Childbirth in Hospital Setting
A doula is well equipped to effectively support parents’ efforts to avoid pain medications and interventions and to have a vaginal delivery.
People Planning A Homebirth
In a homebirth setting, a birth doula can provide ongoing emotional and physical support while your midwife focuses on your medical care. She can also help family members set up the birthing tub, prepare the birth/postpartum bed, clean up after the birth, and help with immediate postpartum needs and desires.
People Desiring For A Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)
A birth doula may be one of the most important and effective resources available to parents striving for a VBAC. Not only does a birth doula know how to help you avoid unnecessary interventions that may lead to another cesarean, but she can help you process your previous birth experience as part of your preparation for a VBAC. A doula can offer indispensable reassurance and encouragement as you strive for the VBAC experience.
People Who Want An Epidural Assisted Birth
A birth doula can enhance the labor and birth experience of women who desire pain relief medications by providing useful information about epidural procedures, recommending in-bed positions that enhance labor’s progression, and offering advice on how to minimize the waterfall effect leading to undesired interventions.
People With High Risk Pregnancies or Births
Some pregnant women have a higher risk of encountering labor and birth complications due to conditions such as hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and diabetes. A doula can help relieve some of the anxiety and tension that comes along with these conditions by helping you to find additional methods of managing your condition.