There are so many new things to figure out and expenses to consider when having a baby. Sometimes the idea of having a doula seems like just another accessory to spend money on, another logistic to have to tackle. It’s hard to imagine what a doula might really do for you that your partner or other care providers can’t cover, particularly if you’ve never given birth before.
I would like to invite you to consider that having a doula attend your birth is a priceless investment in perhaps the most important journey of your lifetime. As a doula, I have been told by both parents after every birth that I have attended some version of the phrase, I can’t imagine what we would have done without you. Just as the experience of childbirth is a mystery until you’re in it, a doula is something you can’t quite appreciate until she’s been by your side during this time.
After seeing 50+ births in hospitals and at home, I strongly recommend a doula for everyone giving birth. Here are some of the reasons why . . .
1. She Is A Trained Professional – Doulas are trained to give very specific emotional and physical support to a laboring woman and are well educated on the many variants of normal labor and birth. They come equipped with a vast toolbox to empower women through all phases of labor and birth and into the postpartum period.
2. It’s How We’ve Always Done It – Throughout history and today in indigenous cultures we see women attending women in birth. The birth is celebrated as a ritual and rite of passage supported through nurturing sisterhood. Women hold sacred space for the unfolding of life and the quiet inner knowings that bond us.
3. Studies Show The Benefits – Research has consistently shown that there are better outcomes for the mom, the baby and subsequent bonding when a trained doula offers labor support. This includes decreases in the need for interventions like the use of pitocin, epidurals and cesarean section and greater success for early breastfeeding.
4. Your Partner Needs a Coach Too – Doulas are not just there for birthing women but offer key support for the dad, or birth partner. I call it the “deer in headlights” moment when inevitably the birth partner becomes overwhelmed by everything that is happening at a birth and oftentimes their own exhaustion, they become frozen and not sure what to do. The doula is there to let them know everything is OK, offer suggestions on how they can support you and to give them time to rest, eat and get fresh air.
5. Your Comfort - The role of doula is distinguished from that of midwife, nurse or doctor because the doula is entirely present for the laboring woman’s physical comfort and emotional support. The other practitioners at a birth are monitoring mom and baby’s physical health and safety and sometimes have the weight of making big decisions. The doula on the other hand has a very specific role dedicated to the needs of the birthing mom and her partner.
6. Continual Care - While nurses change shifts and doctors and midwives may be at a portion of the labor and birth, doulas offer continuous care. This care begins as you develop a personal relationship with her beforehand, as she is on call for you during your birth month, through your entire labor, birth and first hours of postpartum as well as postpartum follow up. This continuance of care is part of what provides such great outcomes in the research for women who are attended by doulas.
7. She Knows You, Your Trust Her - Because you’ve developed a personal relationship with your doula ahead of time, she knows you as well as your desires and preferences. This allows you to feel comforted by her presence and trust that she will provide what you need and advocate on your behalf.
8. She’s Not Your Mom - It can be lovely for some women to have their moms or other close friends and family supporting them at their birth. There’s a few reasons why this type of support does not replace a professional doula. For one, we have emotional ties with family that bring unavoidable dynamics to their support. Like the “deer in headlights” example above or their own fear showing up and expressing itself in inopportune ways, it’s hard for them to see the one they love in the down and dirty and sometimes difficult moments of childbirth. A qualified doula provides neutral ground and support without attachment.
9. She’s Fearless – Doulas believe wholeheartedly in the power of birth and in the incredible abilities and innate wisdom of women’s bodies. Oftentimes her presence and quiet confidence alone help you connect to your inner strength and move through any challenges that arise.
When hiring a doula it’s imperative to find someone who you and your partner really connect with and feels like a good personality fit. Remember, you’re inviting this person into the most intimate moment of your life. It’s also important to feel confident in their communication and support skills.
photo credit: greenmomsmeet.com