What does a doula really do?
A breakdown of the modern doula
Allow me to give you a detailed description and breakdown of what exactly a doula really is. There are several misconceptions when it comes to doula work and it is time, we make it clear. I will be the first to admit it is hard to explain what a doula really is. I think it is important to clarify that this work is a passion, but it is not a hobby. It is a career and a profession; therefore, it is so important for me to educate others, lift this profession up, and highlight its immeasurable value.
“You are a what? A Doula?”
The word doula is an old Greek word that means ‘woman’s servant’. Today, a modern labor doula is professionally trained in supporting families through pregnancy, birth and shortly after birth. During a typical pregnancy in the US, pregnant people are seen by some type of a healthcare provider. This provider can be a Gynecologist, a Midwife or a Physician. These providers are responsible for the medical needs of the pregnant person. Prenatal medical care is so important and a vital part of a healthy pregnancy. Since pregnancy specific medical providers are busy with so many patients, they typically do not have the time to provide personalized care. This is where a doula steps in. In the realm of doula work, there are three main pillars of support we use to fill the gaps in prenatal care. Although each pillar is important, we sometimes find ourselves adjusting the size of each pillar to fit the needs of each individual client.
Pillar #1: Emotional support:
Some may argue that this is the most important part of doula work. This may also be why it is so hard to explain to people what exactly it is that we do. How do you effectively explain emotional support without sounding like a professional “hand-holder”? Being pregnant and sharing your body with another human is emotionally draining. Pregnancy is hormone controlled. We all know what hormones can do to the mind and the mood! Pregnant women can become emotionally depleted, aggressive, and overcome with stress. As a doula, it is my job to work with you through these emotions, and help you overcome any fears or worries associated with your pregnancy and birth. I am here to validate what you are feeling, help you process and give you solid reassurance. Proper emotional support is critical in pregnancy but also crucial in the labor and delivery phase.
Pillar #2: Physical support:
Doulas are trained in specific comfort measures to help facilitate birth. Yes, there are actual ways to ease pain in labor. There is a plethora of options when it comes to pain management and physical support. There are specific pressure points, counter pressure techniques, breathing techniques, massage, hydrotherapy, and positional options. Trust me, if your doula was trained well, she has a million tricks up her sleeve when it comes to comfort measures. Something even more helpful? If you have a partner accompanying you in the birth room, your doula will literally teach your partner these methods and assist them in supporting you! There is a special little hormone called oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, that plays a major role in the baby’s decent through the pelvis. Doulas understand that when you are being supported by someone that you love or have a deep connection with, oxytocin flows. When oxytocin flows, labor progresses faster, and contractions are more effective. Science is amazing! A good doula will never replace your partner but will help bring you closer together through the experience.
Pillar #3: Informational support:
If you are interested in doula support, it is usually safe to say that you are somewhat of a planner. You probably feel more in control when you feel prepared. This may be your first birth and you want it to be the best possible experience. Maybe you have been down the road of birth 2, 3, 4 or maybe 5 times. Maybe those births did not turn out how you had envisioned, and you are looking for a way to feel more confident in your decisions. Knowledge is power. If information and research is your jam and what makes you feel comforted, hire a doula. Your doula will sit down with you and lay out all your options and give you all the evidence-based information so that you feel confident and ready to tackle delivery.
Doulas are experts and we are here to help you achieve whatever goals you have for your birth. I know I personally, take pride in supporting ALL birth plans. My personal birth philosophies are not important when it comes to your birth. If one (or all) of these methods of support sound appealing to you, I encourage you to contact a doula today and set up a consultation. Does everyone NEED a doula to have positive birth experience? Absolutely not. Your baby will come out whether you have a doula present or not but, I am confident that with a doula’s support, you will enjoy it much more! In my opinion an enjoyable, empowering birth experience is an incredibly helpful stepping-stone to creating a solid and healthy family foundation. When you do not have to expend the energy to process and work through birth trauma, you can use that energy to care for and enjoy your new squishy baby.