Midwives! Doulas! Birth Centers! OH MY!
The fact that you are here tells me that you have been reading and researching all you can about birth and birth trends. You've probably read in 10 different articles that doulas are trained professionals who offer continuous physical, emotional, and information support to a mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth. You understand that midwives, doulas, and nurses have different roles in childbirth. There's still just this one nagging question. What will a doula do for ME? Let's talk about it.
DONA International, the leading doula certifying organization in the world, gave us the definition of doulas that I used above. That definition is great for a surface understanding of what doulas do but it doesn't help YOU understand how a doula will help you specifically. So let's break that definition down into bite size parts.
Trained Professional- While most doulas have gone to an agency or organization to be trained, it is not required. Truth be told anyone can be a doula. All they have to do is show up and support you. However, if you choose a doula who has been to a doula certification course you can be assured that they have been trained to meet a set of standards. Those standards usually align with the midwifery model of care, which is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life events. The midwifery model of care approaches pregnant people with a more holistic approach than hospital based care. Each certifying agency has their unique approach to birth. I trained with SMC Full Circle Doula Training which is built on the legacy of the African American 20th century midwife and the wonderful cultural practices and impact they had in their communities. Knowing where your potential doulas trained can help you choose who will be best for you.
Continuous Support- Doulas offer continuous support to their clients from the time they are hired until the end of the postpartum period.
Physical support includes assisting mothers during pregnancy with care of their body as it transitions with the pregnancy. We help mothers understand the changes that are occurring and how to prevent and/or relieve the minor aches and pains of pregnancy. We also provide support during labor, mainly focusing on natural pain relief techniques. These can include positioning, exercises, dancing, aromatherapy, and massage. That's not to say if you want medication that your doula will scold you. Your doula is there to support you in having the birth YOU want, not that she wants. During the postpartum period your doula will help you as your body begins the healing process and returning back to a non-pregnant state.
Emotional support includes assisting mothers as they navigate their daily lives during this transition. We've seen how pregnant women are portrayed in movies and on television as emotional, forgetful, and helpless. While those are gross exaggerations for entertainment purposes, the truth is that pregnancy can be a tough road. Your doula can offer you support with your daily routine. Your doula is there for you to bounce ideas off of, provide you with resources to a problem you're having, role play the hard conversation you need to have with your obstetrician at your next office visit, or even help you devise a plan for your older children while you are at the hospital giving birth. Whatever it is, you don't have to go it alone when you have a doula.
Informational support in my humble opinion is the most important role of a doula. Doulas provide information to mothers so that she can make the best decision for herself and her family. This becomes crucial especially for mothers who choose hospital births because hospital staff tend to work in routines. Doulas are there to remind mom that she is an individual who has rights and agency in her care plan. The right doula can arm a mother with the information she needs in order to have those hard conversations with her obstetrician, or her pediatrician, or even her husband/partner. Let's go ahead and throw the mother-in-law in there too lol. Doulas are hired to give solicited advice so that mom can breeze past all the unsolicited advice she receives on the daily. Note: mothers-in-law often have good advice full of wisdom, no shade. I don't want those problems ha ha!!
Just like your other care providers, doulas have their own style and methods of helping their clients. There is a doula out there for every woman who wants one. You just have to find your match. When searching for a doula think about what is important to you as pregnant person and mother. What are your values in regards to childbirth? What is most important to you about your care? What type of support do you need? What are some of the problems you face?
Start there because the answer always begins with YOU.