Choose a midwife or obstetrician, register for your baby shower, paint the nursery, and hire a doula, oh doula? A what?
The pregnancy to-do list can be a pretty monumental list, especially when you come across things you’re unfamiliar with.
If you haven’t heard of a doula, then you might not even need one, right?
Well, certainly many women have and will continue to give birth without a doula.
However, once you know what a doula does, you realize they’re quite the must-have for birthing parents.
5 Things To Know Before Hiring A Doula
A doula is a professional who provides physical, emotional, and educational support to birthing and newly postnatal women and their families.
She helps you prepare for labor and supports you as you make informed decisions.
She provides continuous support throughout the duration of your labor and birth.
She can help you with infant feeding and provide practical support so you can rest, heal and find a new routine for life with a baby.
Continuous support sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Here are 5 things to know about hiring a doula to help you tackle this very important pregnancy to-do list item:
#1: Doulas Are Professional Birth Support Experts
Do I really want another stranger at my birth?
If that’s the first thing you think of when considering hiring a doula, you’re not alone in that thought. Birth is an intimate experience, and the time spent bonding postnatally is also an intimate and vulnerable time. The last thing you want is a stranger hanging around.
However, a doula is far from a stranger. A doula is a professional expert on pregnancy, birth, and the postnatal period. She isn’t a midwife or doctor. However, she is an expert on how to prepare for birth, how to navigate birth and how to adjust to life with a new baby.
Your midwife or doctor has a vital role in ensuring the health and safety of you and your baby. Your doula’s role is to offer continuous one on one support.
While your care provider is monitoring fetal heart tones, your doula can be offering a gentle massage. While a provider is keeping track of your contraction pattern, your doula can aid in finding a comfortable position that also encourages labor to progress.
#2: Evidence Shows Doulas Improve Birthing Outcomes
“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” – John H. Kennell
Every birth is unique and really can’t be compared to another. However, one thing we do know is modern births often include a lot of interventions. While these interventions can and do save lives, in many circumstances they’re overused. When they’re used without medical necessity, the benefits do not outweigh the risks.
Births with doulas in attendance tend to have less medicinal pain relief which can help avoid the cascade of interventions. ACOG’s publication with recommendations to reduce the primary c-section rates includes research showing continual labor support reduces c-section rates.
Regardless of how one chooses or needs to give birth (e.g. unmedicated, pain medication, c-section), a doula can still improve a mother’s feelings about her birth. Having continuous support can help even the most challenging birth to be positive and leave a mother feeling empowered.
#3: A Doula Doesn’t Replace Your Partner
Well, a doula sounds lovely but what about my partner? Shouldn’t he be my primary labor support?
A doula in no way replaces your partner or other primary support people. A doula offers professional support. Think of a doula as a sherpa. You wouldn’t head to an unfamiliar wilderness without a guide. For many new parents, birth is an unfamiliar wilderness.
Childbirth preparation classes, reading, and making informed decisions can help couples make birth less of an unfamiliar wilderness. Even so, having a professional guide who has been there many times, can make the experience smoother for many couples.
Your partner can focus on supporting you without having to remember every detail from chapter 5 of your birthing book or week 2 of your childbirth preparation class. A doula can help him remember and offer tips to better support you. A doula can also help your partner get a guilt-free moment to grab a coffee or a quick nap so he can be refreshed and be the best possible support for you.
During the postnatal period, a doula makes it possible for both parents to get some rest. She can also help you transition once your partner returns to work.
#4: A Doula Makes ‘What Ifs’ Less Scary
What if my midwife’s backup is on call? What if I need an emergency c-section? What if my two-year-old needs daddy?
‘What ifs’ are never ideal, and they can certainly be scary when it comes to birth. Even little things can be worrisome.
For example, you spent nine months getting to know your midwife, but she’s down with the flu and her backup needs to attend. While the backup midwife is likely to be wonderful, having a doula you’re familiar with can relieve some of the worries about an unfamiliar healthcare provider.
Having an extra set of supportive hands can be emotionally reassuring with all the ‘what ifs’ in birth. If you have older children, you’re no stranger to unexpected emergencies.
So while it seems a doula might only be necessary for first-time parents, they’re really beneficial even if you’re expecting number seven!
#5: A Doula Provides Non-Judgmental Support During A Very Vulnerable Time
Some women are incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by friends and family members that simply want to support them no matter how they give birth, how they choose to feed their baby and however they choose to parent.
Many women have well-meaning support systems that offer loads of advice but often in a way that feels as though their experience is the only right way. It can leave you feeling either bad or unsupported should you choose differently.
As a doula, I’ve worked with many families in addition to learning about the benefits and risks of birthing methods and interventions, infant feeding, and early parenting.
I’ve learned that it’s important to decipher between personal experience and opinion, and actual evidence.
I’ve learned that what works well for one woman or family, might not work as well for another.
Ultimately, however, I’ve learned that women are incredibly capable of making the choices right for themselves when given true support and information.
As a doula, my role is to support you during a vulnerable time. To help you not only choose what works for you but to help you make informed decisions while knowing someone has your back.
We won’t tell you that you must do X because our cousin Sally did Y and it turned into a disaster.
We help you find what you are comfortable with and we can provide you with evidence to make informed decisions.
Visit the BellyBelly Marketplace to find a doula in your area.