When I had my first child, I did not even know that doulas existed. It was after getting pregnant the second time and being set on having a much more positive experience the second time around, that I found out about doulas and their role in providing continuous knowledgeable, skilled, and compassionate labor support to women AND their partners.
Since the birth of my children I was fortunate to spend several years learning about birth: its physiology, its emotional and psychological impact on mothers and their families, its relationship with breastfeeding and the early postpartum period, and the various ways in which different birth team members can support the journey of mothers and their partners as they blossom into strong and healthy families.
I also learned about birth as a public health issue, from a population standpoint, in terms of statistics relating to the use of interventions (whether medically indicated or not) such as labor induction and augmentation, planned and emergency cesarean sections, vaginal births after cesarean (VBACs), as well as research findings about mothers’ experiences with maternity care in the US.
I became more and more attached to the realization that BIRTH MATTERS. It matters to the individual woman and her partner, it matters to that baby being born on that day, it matters to women as women (women rights!) and as human beings as they stand to deliver in a space that is protected and embracing of their human right to be cared for with dignity, respect, and compassion.
Doulas are still too often a well-kept secret: only 6% of women surveyed in the most recent Listening To Mothers III study by Dr. Eugene Declercq et al (2013) actually received labor support from a doula, even though 27% of mothers who knew about doulas and did not use one, admitted to having wanted to have a doula present at their birth. Given the overwhelming benefits of doula support, I agree with the DONA International vision of “A Doula for every woman who wants one” and strongly believe that doulas should ideally be a standard essential ingredient of every birthing team.
Your doula can provide you AND your partner with uninterrupted:
- Help you understand what to expect and what your preferences might be well before labor begins
- Be your “go-to person” when you have a bunch of questions before birth and after, questions your care provider may not have the time to answer during regular visits
- Help you find a provider that best suits your needs and expectations
- Help you navigate and plan for community resources such as childcare, home visiting services, meal planning for the early postpartum period, newborn care plans, breastfeeding and childbirth education classes, insurance coverage, etc.
- Help ensure optimal continuity of care so that your care providers, who may be changing shifts during your labor, are aware of your preferences as you progress through labor and recover postpartum
- Help you understand what your options are and help you understand what your providers are telling you or what they may be about to do
- Remind you that, in non-life threatening situations, it is ok to ask for more time to think about your choices
- Remind you that you can ask more questions
- Keep notes about what happens during your labor and birth, so that she may share it with you afterwards when you are ready to process your birth
- Answer initial questions about breastfeeding
- Turn the light off or down
- Turn the TV off and turn the music on
- Close the door or draw the curtains
- Suggest different positions to alleviate pain, increase comfort, shorten labor, and optimize fetal positioning
- Use pressure points, hip squeezes, counter pressure, and other comforting touch
- Use a Rebozo for positioning and relaxation
- Help your partner learn about ways in which he/she may help you feel more comfortable throughout labor
- Ensure that you stay hydrated throughout labor (she even brings unopened lip balm for you to use!)
- Give you nourishment if you are running out of energy or are feeling hungry during labor
- Help you periodically change positions in case of an epidural that prevents you from moving on your own
- Add more blankets and warm towels when and if you are feeling cold
- Comfort you with cool rags and other proven measures in case of nausea
- Help you focus inward, maintain a regular breathing pattern, and become calmer when and if anxiety sets in
- Accompany you on prenatal visits and/or birthing place tours
- Be with you, continuously, from the early stages of labor till well after you are settled after birth
- Give your partner a break, when needed, and the peace of mind that you are still being cared for continuously
- Make you laugh, chat, and distract you when you feel that is best and keep quiet and let you focus inward when that is what you need
- Remind you to trust birth, and to trust your body
- Help you live birth as an empowering and healing experience
- Stay with you in the operating room when your partner goes to the nursery with the baby, in case of a cesarean birth
- Take pictures as you wish
- Be proud of you no matter what
- Remind you that you are amazing and that you are doing exactly what you need to do for yourself and your baby during YOUR birth
- Celebrate with you with genuine excitement and care
You may ask yourself: “Can’t my partner, mother, friend do all this for me?” Perhaps they could, especially if they have received the same kind of training that professional doulas normally get and if they have spent countless hours learning in depth about labor, childbirth, comfort measures, provider-patient communication, and so on. Interestingly though, numerous studies have found that the benefits of continuous labor support, benefits that include increased satisfaction with the birth experience as well as lower medical intervention rates, are improved significantly when the support is provided by a person who is not affiliated with the birthing place, nor the woman’s immediate social network.
Are you ready to invest in a knowledgeable, compassionate, and skilled doula to support you and your partner before, during, and after the big day? Contact me to set up a free consultation!