What is a doula?
Doulas support women and families of all shapes and sizes, who have different kinds of births and make a wide range of parenting choices. The services offered by a doula vary greatly according to the needs of the person, couple or family they’re working with, because the doula’s purpose is to ensure the family/birthing person has a positive birth experience, whatever that means for them.
The word Doula refers to a support person who is present during different stages of the conception and birthing process. The most common type of tool is a birth Doula who is involved with the family during the prenatal period, and then is on call and present for labor and birth. Postpartum doulas are the next most common, arriving either just before the birth to make a postpartum plan and then follow through supporting the family in that plan, or being called upon when the family realizes that they need extra support in his first three months after their child has been born. Other types of doulas that are far less well known are doulas who support families through the conception phase, particularly if the couple is using fertility treatments or other medical interventions to conceive, and doulas who specialize in stillbirth and abortions, supporting women in these very challenging and difficult times.
Why work with a doula?
Doulas have one major advantage over all your loving family and friends through the birth process: doulas are not invested in anything but your happiness. Families are beautiful and complex organisms, filled with dynamics that may influence your choices, but your doula is an unbiased resource you can share with emotionally, draw on for evidence-based information, and ask for physical aid while you and your family focus on the birth itself. Doulas are also excellent for communicating clearly with the primary caregiver if you request it. Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
- results in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
It is important to note that doulas do not prefer or encourage any type of birth, but support your desires for your birth, even if it means that you accept all possible interventions in a hospital setting. A doula should NEVER pressure you to make a choice, but SUPPORT your choices with information and acceptance.
How does a doula work with my primary caregiver?
A doula will only do what you give specific instructions or permission to do with your caregiver, like communicating your birth plan. A doula is NOT a medical professional, and will not diagnose any conditions or perform any medical procedures. A doula will also not be your voice in any conversation with a caregiver that involves decision-making, but your doula may communicate your decisions if you have given permission to do so in advance.
No matter what the setting or relationship with the primary caregiver, your doula works for YOU, and will remain in line with your wishes at all times.
Does a doula take on the role of my partner? What will he/she/they do instead?
Your doula is there to fulfill the tasks that take your attention and focus away from having the birth experience you want to. If your partner wants to be your primary birth companion, your doula may be there to provide breaks for them, to have food and water on hand so neither of you have to break your rhythm for those basic needs. Your partner may also be a wonderful support for you emotionally, but doesn't know what to expect in birth, and won't be able to answer questions or know which questions to ask your caregiver. Doulas support everyone in your birth plan, giving you peace of mind that everything is taken care of while you do the work of bringing a life into the world.
What if my doula is unavailable when I go into labour?
Doulas often work in pairs, so when you do your interview to determine if you will hire someone, they may also bring their back-up doula so you can get acquainted. It is not very often that your doula will be completely unavailable - the most common reason is that they're at another birth! Personally, I am only taking two births per month so it is very unlikely to happen.