As a woman preparing for birth there are many things you might find or consider in your search. A quick review of your Google search history may look something like this
“Childbirth classes near me, midwife or OB/GYN, bradley method, epidural, water birth, Breastfeeding tips, and……..DOULA.”
Doulas—a buzz word surrounding pregnancy and birth with recent trends, however doulas are nothing new. The word “doula” is of Greek origin and means “woman’s servant.” A clear definition in today’s terms as provided by DONA International (the first certifying doula organization) states “a doula is a trained non-medical professional that provides continuous emotional, physical, and educational support to those who are expecting, experiencing labor, or those who have recently given birth.” Doulas have been and integral part of the birth setting in many different cultures worldwide and help aid the birthing woman in her childbirth experience. No matter what kind of birth you are preparing for just as the need for a doctor or midwife is a given, finding a doula should be looked at in the same light.
1. Doulas give medical care to pregnant women like doctors, nurses, and midwives
Doulas are divided into two main categories, birth and postpartum doulas. While all accompany women from pregnancy to postpartum there is actually a clear line between doulas and a doctor or midwife. Doctors and midwives are healthcare providers and their responsibility is to provide medical care and treatment to uphold the health of mother and baby. The care providers prescribe medicine, perform clinical procedures, and advise you on a medical plan. Doulas provide support for you throughout the process of the medical plan established by you and your medical team. A doula will never check your cervix, advise you about baby’s health, make decisions for you, or deliver your baby. Instead they will provide you with information on options to discuss with your medical provider, help you understand what to expect with certain procedures, and equip you with the tools to cope through whatever the plan is.
2. Doulas are for home births or moms “going natural.”
Many people have the misconception that doulas are only needed if you plan to have a home birth or medication free birth. This is false. Regardless of if your plan is to birth at home or a hospital, no medications or cesarean, a doula is still for you. The only prerequisite to having a doula is that you are having a baby, that’s it! A doula promotes self advocacy encouraging and helping you fulfill specific desires you might have for your birth. Doula support looks like whatever you need for your specific situation so your birth is your baby, your way!
3. My mother or significant other will be there so I don’t need a doula.
A doula does not replace the support system that a woman has. Doulas are a great addition to any support team and their presence enhances and compliments the experience. It’s great if you have family/friends that will be there to encourage you through your birth, the important piece a doula adds is they are trained childbirth professionals. So unless your sister or mother in law moonlights in the childbirth profession what they offer you will be completely different than that of a doula. And just because someone has had a baby before doesn’t qualify them as being a trained childbirth professional able to appropriately support you. Doulas also provide support to the other members of your support team. Your family is experiencing this birth as well so they can take comfort in knowing a doula would support them through a rough moment or take over rubbing your back for 10 minutes while they get a snack and recharge. Doulas can help guide family/friends through their own experience and provide suggestions in what they can do to assist you as the person giving birth. It’s all a team effort and doulas don’t take over the role of any other person on your team. Whether it’s a family’s first baby or their tenth, a doula can help make the birth and postpartum experience better.
The goal of a doula is to help you experience a positive and safe birth regardless of what that process looks like. Countless scientific trials examining doula care demonstrate remarkably improved physical and psychological outcomes for both mother and baby. Doulas have a positive impact on the well-being of the entire family.
1. Doulas increase your chances of having a normal, vaginal birth.
2. Doulas decrease the use of medications including epidurals, pain medications, and pitocin
3. Doulas can help shorten the length of labor
4. Doulas help Improve positive infant outcomes
5. Doulas improve moms’ overall satisfaction and positive birth experience
As stated above doulas are amazing people who can provide support to you however you are comfortable. Doulas can help you form realistic expectations about your birth and help you through whatever takes place over the course of your pregnancy. There are no risks in having a doula and results have only been shown to be positive and highly effective. Even when compared to the presence of hospital staff, significant others, and family, doula support proved the highest impact on positive effects. In short, as a woman who is expecting or trying to conceive, planning to have a doula for your birth should be one of the things at the top of your list.