What is a doula?
"Doula" refers to a supportive companion who is professionally trained to provide labor support. There is also a postpartum doula, who provides support during the postpartum period. We will be talking mostly about labor doulas.
A doula performs no medical tasks. Instead, she provides physical, emotional, and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth. She gives help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, massage, and positioning. She assists families in gathering information about their options for labor. She usually will meet with the family at least once before the birth, to gain a repore. She provides continuous emotional reassurance and comfort. She has important, though nonmedical, skills such as massage and reflexology. She knows many comfort measures for the laboring woman. She assists the partner in playing an active role in the birth. She can act as liaison between the hospital staff and the family. She helps the woman have a spiritual, satisfying birth.
Who needs a doula?
First time moms, VBAC moms, moms having cesareans, moms wanting a natural birth, all these moms and their partners could benefit from having a doula. As a first time mom, it is helpful to have someone there who knows what’s happening. A VBAC mom can benefit greatly from the reassurance a doula continuously gives. A mom having a cesarean can be comforted by her doula. Moms wanting less intervention can be greatly increase their chances of a beautiful birth by having a doula as part of their birth team. A mom with special needs is strengthened by her doula.
Do I think every mom could benefit from having a doula attend her birth? Yes, I do. Who couldn’t benefit from extra support during labor? Most moms I know could. What about their partners? Can Dads benefit from having a doula? Read on.
Do Dads need Doulas?
After the birth of my third baby (a VBA2C), my husband actually said ‘I think she was there more for me than you.’ I almost fell over laughing. This coming from the guy who said he didn’t want a doula. He wondered what his role was supposed to be with her there. Then he decided he would (gladly) wait in the hall. I was afraid he wouldn’t be involved at the birth at all. He was great! He helped do leg/knee pushes, walked the halls with me, and was the opposite team in a bed sheet tug of war (helped during the pushing stage). He was involved, because of the direction from my doula. Instead of feeling replaced by Twyla, he felt support, and guidance. We expect so much from our partners- but they haven’t (first time or VBAC dads) done this before, either. They are in need of the same kind of reassurance that moms are. Their experience is enhanced by having a doula.
When should I hire a doula?
It is nice to meet and talk with doulas in your area early in your pregnancy. Most doulas only take a few clients a month and you will want to get on her schedule. She may be a source of information and prenatal support, also. She may be able to point you toward a good care provider, childbirth classes, or good books.
Where do I find a doula?
You can find a doula at an ICAN or La Leche League meeting. You can find one through your childbirth educator, or midwife. Your hospital may have references. Ask around.
Call her and set up an appointment to meet. During the visit, ask yourself if she communicates well. Does she listen well? Do you like her?
A Doula’s Birth Philosophy
I feel so passionate about birth and the difference it can make in a woman’s life... forever. It is time we make the choices for our own care and that of our sweet babies. I am so grateful for the many wonderful experiences I have had as a doula. It is such an honor to help these moms through each stage of labor and birth. Every birth is different and so special. Birth is a beautiful and extremely spiritual experience. I believe birth is a healthy and natural process, not a high tech medical event or illness. Women CAN birth naturally and gently. All it takes is: good health, education, support, and a good care provider. I believe in women, I believe in birth!
--Twyla Cluster, doula, mom, and friend
A Doula Provides...
Questions to ask a prospective doula:
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