As a Doula, one of the most frequent questions I get is "What exactly IS a Doula, anyway?"
The answer to that isn't simple nor is it concise, as a Doula wears many hats! This article, written to answer just that question, is perhaps the most insightful and touching account of what exactly a Doula does....
However, if that didn't quite cover it, hopefully these FAQ's will.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MIDWIFE AND A DOULA?
A Doula is essentially a mother’s maiden. The term, “Doula” is an ancient Greek word defining the most important servant in the household who would assist the woman of the house with her childbearing. A Doula focuses 100% of her energy toward enabling comfort, relaxation, ease of pain, and peace of mind to the mother. Her only concerns are that of the mother she is assisting. A midwife is trained to deliver babies as well as provides medical attention, medication, prenatal testing, etc. She is concerned with the overall well being of the pregnancy, whereas a Doula is specifically focused on the mother.
I THOUGHT DOULAS ONLY ASSISTED AT HOME BIRTHS.
Doulas support mothers in the decisions they make to create the birth they want. More and more mothers are choosing their homes and birth centers as their ideal location to birth yet the majority of women in American still deliver in hospitals. Doulas work within their client's ideal birthing space- wherever that may be.
I KNOW I WANT TO USE MEDICATION, CAN I STILL USE A DOULA?
Absolutely! I am there to support you, whatever your birth vision may be. During early labor, while your labor patterns are still being established, I will assist by providing non-medical pain coping techniques. When the time comes for pain medication to be administered, I will support you by suggesting different positions to continue progression of your labor. I will also help provide other distraction methods, and help keep spirits and energy levels up.
CAN I WORK WITH A DOULA IF I'M HAVING A C-SECTION OR INDUCTION?
I will support you through whatever birth experience you decide or need to have.
If you want or need to have a C-section, I can help you prepare for your journey, and support you in having a 'Cesarean Birth Experience'. I believe that no matter how baby is delivered, you can have a mother-centered birth!
Should you need an induction, I can support and assist you with position changes, movement, and relaxation techniques that will help baby into optimal position and encourage a smoother, swifter birth.
BUT MY HOSPITAL IS REALLY GREAT…I’M SURE I’LL GET THE BEST CARE POSSIBLE.
It’s wonderful that you feel confident about the place you have chosen to give birth! This is really important for your comfort and level of trust as you are delivering. However, many women don’t think about some important factors that could frustrate them even in the best of hospitals, for instance:
-There will probably be other women in labor at the same time as you; you will not be the center of attention for anyone except for your Doula and birthing partner.
-Hospital staff changes shifts. This means that you may have several nurses or doctors attending to you at the beginning of your hospital stay and then a whole new set of personalities will take over. Some women say that this is the worst part about hospital delivery because they will have bonded to a certain nurse or midwife and then they leave, only to be replaced by someone the mother does not “click” with as well. Who else but your Doula is trained to stay at your side no matter how long your labor is?
-Often times the most modern and up to date hospitals really encourage hiring a Doula. Studies overwhelmingly support Doula-attended births. I had a nurse say to me once when she saw me arrive, “We love Doulas! They do what we want to do but just aren't able to with our workload. When we see a mama with a Doula we know she is getting the best care possible!”
MY HUSBAND/ PARTNER/ SISTER/ MOTHER WILL BE WITH ME, IS A DOULA REALLY NECESSARY?
The people you love and trust the most should absolutely be present if this is something you feel strongly about! I have been to births where only one birthing partner was present and others where several were in attendance! Both options are great depending on the mother’s wishes.
However, keep in mind that people in the room have not been trained in labor support. They might be holding your hand and encouraging you, but most mothers need much more than that. Husbands are also wonderful people to share this experience with but, it's important to remember that dads/partners are intensely emotionally connected to you and the baby. Though they are playing a different role, they are intimately connected to the birth and all it brings, as well as the mother! As a result, seeing the person they love most in the world in a situation that is uncomfortable and overwhelming, can be discouraging if they feel like there is nothing they can do to help. Many dads/partners leave their child's birth feeling that they have disappointed the mama because they were not able to provide the rock solid physical, emotional, and verbal support that their partner had expected from them.
Having a Doula present to make quiet suggestions on how to support the mother, and also to be available for mom should they need a break or some space, can help everyone present feel supported, connected, and truly present. All of this helps further create a nurturing, safe, loving environment for mom and baby- resulting in a smoother, softer, quicker labor experience!
WON’T A DOULA’S PRESENCE DIMINISH THAT SPECIAL MOMENT OF BONDING BETWEEN MY PARTNER AND ME?
I cannot stress this enough: a Doula’s job is not to replace but to reinforce and guide a partner as they work with the mother through labor and childbirth.
I highly encourage the dad/partner to get involved in the pregnancy and birthing process and I welcome the opportunity to work with birthing teams that have trained together and practiced ideas taught in methods such as the Bradley Method (partner assisted birth), Hypnobabies, Birthing From Within, and the like. Having a Doula allows you both to stay focused on what is truly important, the connection between the two of you and the creation of your new family.
“You needn't worry that a Doula will replace your partner. A good Doula enhances rather than detracts from the father’s participation…Interviewed afterward, fathers uniformly liked have a Doula and did not feel that she interfered with their role. Fathers reported that not only did Doulas help them help the moms, but many of the Doula’s support actions were directed personally at them… Doulas improve physiological and social outcomes.”
-“The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” by Henci Goer; award-winning medical writer specializing in birth issues
Still have questions? I would be happy to answer them.