Today we're going to back to the basics!
Doula 101 - The What and the Why
Preparing for a new baby can be an overwhelming task— there are numerous baby gear items to acquire, frequent care provider visits, increasing demands on your body as your baby grows and your body changes, classes to take, postpartum work arrangements to be made . . . . it’s no wonder that many people postpone thinking about how they will approach labor and birth until later into their pregnancy.
Sometimes it’s during a childbirth education class, or when you feel your baby’s rigorous kicks, or you can no longer see your toes underneath your growing belly, that you start to think, “This baby’s really going to come out soon!” You might panic, as you think about all the books you wanted to read, or that birth plan you need to write. And how in the world will your partner know what to do when you are in labor?!
Step in your doula. But what’s a doula? A doula is your continuous support during labor and birth, a knowledgeable birth guide who works for you, giving you the information, encouragement, and hands-on help you need to give birth in a way that feels right to you. She works with you and your partner in pregnancy, educating you about your options, and answering whatever questions you may have along the way. She knows all about birth. She helps your partner effectively help you by making suggestions on how to support you in labor. Your doula helps you both feel confident and prepared for birth, instead of fearful or anxious.
But isn’t that what your doctor or midwife is for? Or your nurses? Actually, no. Your doctor and midwife, and the hospital nursing staff, are primarily focused on the physical health and safety of you and your baby during labor. They are monitoring your blood pressure, checking fetal heart rates, administering medications, and watching for signs outside of a normal birth pattern. In a hospital setting, you may not even see your doctor or midwife until you have already starting pushing.
The nursing staff you may see more often, as they are the front line of patient care, but they usually have several other patients to care for besides you. They don’t have the time or the resources to continuously stay by your side, helping you breathe, or massaging you, or suggesting position changes. If you are in labor during a shift change, the nurse whose care you have been under will leave, and a new person will take their place.
That leaves just your partner and maybe another family member or friend to offer the continuous support that can make or break a birth experience. And although members of your support team may have given birth before, they aren’t necessarily familiar with birth in general, or the specific needs of your birth. They may not know what to suggest if certain challenges arise during labor. They may not have the information you need to make a decision about the course of your care.
Doulas bring a calming presence, knowledge about the birth process, and personalized care to your birth space. They attend all types of birth, from unmedicated home births, to Cesarean births, to inductions, and everything in between. Doulas get to know their clients during pregnancy, and support them in whatever decisions they make for themselves. They follow up postpartum, checking in on their clients’ well being, helping with breastfeeding, and referring them to additional resources they may need.
There are Postpartum Doulas, who work with families in their home, helping them adjust to life with a new baby. They help with newborn care, household organization, light housekeeping and cooking, and they help take care of baby so the new parents can get what every new parent needs— more sleep!
The Treasure Valley is a great place to have a baby, and one of the reasons is that there is a doula for everyone, in all price ranges, offering a different mix of services that work for your situation. When you have the right support, your birth and postpartum experiences are more likely to be positive, benefiting you, your partner, and your baby.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa and the greater Treasure Valley. Do you have questions about how a doula can help you have a more positive birth experience?
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.