In honor of the closing of World Doula Week, I asked my 7 year old son, “Honey, what do you think I do as a doula?” His reply was perfect, and what most folks (if they know doulas are a thing) think a doula does. He said “You help get babies to come out!”
In a word, “no” In a longer, roundabout way….yes.
I am here to set the record straight on what a doula does and does not do.
I am, first and foremost, by no means, your primary medical caregiver. Whether the provider is midwife, OB-GYN, Nurse Practitioner, or even an EMT, they answer your questions about the medical care of your body and your baby, not the doula.
So…. what is a doula?
One of the easiest and best definitions I have found comes from my doula-bible, Mothering the New Mother by Sally Placksin.
“The doula’s basic role is to provide nonintrusive, nonjudgemental support according to the family needs and wishes”.
We exist, and have since the dawn of birth in communal society, to assist a laboring mother’s relaxation and confidence that you can birth your baby, and to take away worries about anything else. We facilitate you and your partner (if present, whoever that may be) experiencing labor and birth however you have envisioned it.
That’s right. You envision a birth with no meds, in a tub with candles lit? We provide evidence-based assistance to help you there. You envision an epidural and watching comedy central while you dilate? We are with ya! What if something happens and medical advice doesn’t mesh with that? We help you through that adjustment to the vision.
How does this work? A recent client had a fear of an epidural. Having had one previously, there was trauma about that experience. It was my role to talk about this prenatally. We talk about the benefits, the risks and how the couple wants to approach that decision this time. I’m there to allow the client to talk and tell her story about the reality of her trauma. And I’m there to do what can be done to make the coming birth experience empowering and under her control. Reassurance, peace of mind, and educational preparedness are our top roles prenatally and in the labor room.
Think the doula’s role is over once the baby is born? Nope. We also carry a role in helping facilitate breastfeeding and bottle feeding education and support. Some doulas are even IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) certified as a part of their postpartum role. We can help you prepare and get through those first days, weeks and months postpartum.
In short, doulas help you feel like YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS. What is often missing from modern maternity care is the emotional support in prenatal care , in labor, and postpartum care for both mom, partner, and baby. THIS is the most important role we play as doulas.
Are there benefits other than feeling supported? Hell to the yeah!
According to Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage, a randomized study at Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston Texas of 422 first time mothers were randomly assigned to one of three groups: 1) Control, had no one present. 2) Supported, doula present or assigned, or 3) just observed, someone there but no doula, showed:
“1)Epidural anesthesia and forceps use were much lower in the Supported group compared to the observed and control groups, and Cesarian section rates were halved compared to the control group”. From this, “They concluded that support during labor, even in the form of the present of a silent observer, has a therapeutic effect.”
Let me review: Lose your fear, feel empowered, AND potentially decrease risk of complications. Wait… can I get a life-doula?
Kristy Wright is a married mother of 2, doula, massage therapist, fitness coach and homesteader in the Richmond, VA area.