Are you considering a doula, but you're wondering what exactly they do? I'm here to explain that in depth to you.
If you ask a doula what they do, they may give you their quick 2-minute elevator speech: "A doula is a professionally trained labor support person. They provide continuous emotional and physical support during your labor. They can help you advocate for your birth preferences and help you make the best decisions for you and your family."
While this is true (and I've said it myself) I find it still leaves most people a little in the dark. So I'd love to take a moment and help you stop researching (at least on this topic) and describe what exactly we do!
Prenatal Doula Support
To start, we provide prenatal support. This is where you can call and ask questions, voice concerns, talk about fears and hopes, tell us about your doctors' appointments and more. We'll also schedule 1 to 2 prenatal visits. These are typically around 30 and 36 weeks. We'll come to your home and go over your birth plan and preferences, talk about your past births and pregnancies, we can discuss choices you'll want or need to make during your birth. We also go over the labor and birth process, baby positioning, labor and pushing positions, interventions, and more. You can ask any questions you'd like! A doula brings to the table their experiences with birth, as well as their training and education about birth. While we'll discuss a lot of birth topics, a doula does not replace a good childbirth education class. Don't forget to sign up for a good class. Ask me for recommendations.
Labor Doula Support
When it comes to your birthing time, a doula is a constant source of support. You will call when your labor is beginning. Most women will keep in touch with their doula on the phone when they're doing really well, and then request their doula's presence when they feel they need extra support. We will come either to your home during early labor or meet you at your birthing place, it's really up to you! We can help you stay comfortable so you can labor at home longer.
Once we're with you, a doula can help with many things. One of the most popular ways a Doula helps a laboring mother is with counter-pressure or light-touch massage. By pressing on the lower back, knees, or hips it can relieve pressure and alleviate pain. A lot of doula work encompasses physical support during labor. Light-touch massage is a good distraction technique and also makes a laboring mother feel supported, loved, and reminds them that they're not alone.
A doula also helps by suggesting different laboring positions, reminding you to change positions every 30 minutes or so, and reminding you to empty your bladder (helpful in letting the baby descend), A doula will bring a calming presence to you and your partner. We're aware of what is 'normal' and that can sometimes calm down a worrying partner. We can also help you set up your birthing place with candles, birthing pools, whatever makes it feel like home.
Sometimes your birth doesn't go as planned and choices have to be made. While a doula won't speak for the parents or make decisions for them, we can help clarify with the medical staff, explain procedures to the parents, remind parents and staff of birth preferences while discussing what you want now (plans can change, and that's okay!) and go over risks and benefits so that you can make the best choice for you. It's important for you as the parents to feel empowered and make the choices for your birth. This is key to loving your birth story! We will be with you if you have any questions or concerns when these decisions come up.
When it comes to pushing, a doula can help you choose what position to push in, explain how to push effectively, encourage you and help dad out.
Doula Support with an Epidural, Induction, and Cesarean
Some people believe that doulas are only for unmedicated or natural births, but that isn't the case. A doula can help a medicated women in the same ways! Even when you're planning on receiving an epidural, most of the time labor will start naturally. You'll be experiencing early labor and you may need the same emotional and physical support. It's been suggested to wait until you're dilated to a 6 before you get your epidural so labor doesn't slow or stall. That can still be quite a few hours of labor and you deserve consistent support.
Once you get an epidural, a doula can help you change positions while in bed, and can help you use the newly popular peanut ball. These techniques can shorten the length of labor. With epidurals, usually other interventions come into play, sometimes Pitocin is suggested, or you may want support when it comes to pushing or the doctor wants to do an episiotomy. You may want support or information regarding any of these processes or procedures and a doula can assist with that.
Cesareans and inductions can be difficult emotionally for some moms, especially if it wasn't expected or planned. A doula will be there to calm you, remind you about the process, and help you get any questions you have answered. In a cesarean birth, the baby is sometimes taken to the NICU and usually Dad goes with the baby. In this case, a mother is left alone in a somewhat scary situation. She's being stitched up, and wondering about her brand new baby. Having a doula in this situation is a great comfort to a mom. We will be there holding her hand, telling her what's going on, even texting dad to get updates or photos to show to mom.
Immediate Postpartum Doula Support
After your baby is born, a doula can help you get comfortable, showered, and ready for visitors whenever you choose to have them. We can also help you establish breastfeeding and teach you how to help your baby latch on and begin nursing. We'll make sure you and your new family are comfortable before we leave you to the bonding time you've been waiting for.
Postpartum Doula Visit
About 10-14 days after your birth, your doula will come do a postpartum visit with you. We'll see how you're doing emotionally, ask questions about healing, the baby, nursing or baby feeding, possibly postpartum depression, and more. We can direct you to resources you may need like a lactation consultant or PPD counselor.
That's a lot of information I know, but hopefully, it explains a lot more about what a doula can do for you and your partner. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us!
What Does A Birth Doula Do?
Prenatal Doula Support:
Supports you via phone, text, & email
Meets with you 1-2 times to talk about the birth YOU want
Shows you labor and birth positions
Shows your partner techniques to help with labor discomfort or pain
Labor and Birth Doula Support:
Supports the birth YOU want, whatever that looks like
Can help you deal with unexpected decisions
Can help relieve physical discomfort by light-touch massage and counter pressure
Has shown to shorten the length of labor, reduce interventions, and reduce cesareans
Helps support Dad or your partner and encourage their involvement to their comfort level
Consistent support from someone you know and trust. Even if it's 2, 10, or 36 hours!
Immediate Postpartum Doula Support:
Can help you get settled, showered, ready for visitors
Protects the bonding period between you, baby, and dad (she'll step back to let you enjoy your moments!)
Can help establish breastfeeding, teaching you how to allow the baby to latch