You’ve probably guessed by now, I’m a huge doula fan–I advocate for them every chance I get, believe in the power of their support, and am even in training to become certified myself.
But, like many, there was a time when I had no clue what a doula was.
Here are the things I’ve learned about doulas:
Doulas go all the way back to Ancient Greece.
The term “doula” hasn’t been around since Ancient Greece, but the type of support doulas provide has been (even though back in the day, the doula position was more of a servant than a professional).
Doulas do NOT replace your partner.
Actually, doulas complement your partner in providing unique care for you, and really, each other. For example, your partner may want to stay close to you and hold your hand, but you also want some massage therapy. Doula to the rescue! You get everything you need and your partner is close by your side. Another instance, your partner may want to catch the baby (yes, you totally can do that!). Your doula can be at your head while you partner is in the action, again, making sure you are well taken care of.
There are several types of doulas.
There are at least 4 different kinds of doulas: antepartum, labor/birth, postpartum, and bereavement. All of these doulas provide different kinds of care in different contexts, but the overall theme is the same: we want to support you in the way that you need.
Antepartum doulas are there for you during your pregnancy, providing tips for relief, information about available pregnancy resources, accompaniment to doctor’s appointments, and birth planning. We may also provide childbirth classes!
Labor/Birth doulas are pretty self explanatory: we’re there during the labor and birth of your baby. These doulas are INVALUABLE, making sure you’re comfortable, giving you a voice in the delivery room, making sure your partner is taken care of, making sure your birth wishes are coming true (as best as possible), and labor tirelessly along with you (giving massage, acupressure, helping you move to different positions…the list goes on…).
Postpartum doulas are there after baby is born. We make sure your baby is taken care of and that you are taken care of. Many, if not all, postpartum doulas are trained in breastfeeding support as well, so you can rest assured everything gets off to the best start possible. Most postpartum doulas will do home visits at least once a week, to make sure things are going well there, too. She may watch older siblings, do some light housework, and be a hands-on helper for you and baby, as well. Bonus: lots of labor/birth doulas are also postpartum doulas. Make sure you ask!
Sometimes, things in birth don’t go to plan, and a new mother is born without her baby. This is where a bereavement doula comes in. Her duties are very similar to that of a labor/birth doula and a postpartum doula, making sure you are supported emotionally, physically, and mentally, and getting the care you need. Fortunately, these doulas aren’t needed as often, and we can care for families and their new healthy babies on a regular basis.
Doulas do NOT provide medical care.
That’s right. We do not provide you or your baby medical care or advice. Here’s why: we are not medically trained professionals nor have we attended medical school in any capacity. We are trained to help you stay informed about medical decisions, we can refer you to medical professionals in the area, and we can support you in the decisions you do make. We are professionals here to support you emotionally and physically, making sure you have access to the resources you need.
Doulas and midwives are different.
I mentioned above that doulas do not provide medical care. However, midwives do! In fact, midwives and doulas go hand in hand for their supportive, natural care for women and their babies, working super well together to give you a full, hands on, supportive birth experience you absolutely deserve.
Doulas are available for the kind of support YOU need.
It doesn’t matter to us what kind of birth you want to have, so long as you are informed. We want you to be happy and healthy, as well as your baby, so we talk with you about making decisions about your birth. Want an epidural? Great! Let’s talk more about epidurals and figure out if it’s the best decision for you and how we can support you. Don’t want to exclusively breastfeed? Okie doke, let’s explore options and discuss the benefits of both breastfeeding and formula, and get a game plan.
We want you to be supported, no matter what. That means talking about your reasons for things as well as the pros and cons. This isn’t meant as an attack or questioning you, but helps us be the best doulas we can be for you and your context.
Doulas work hard to make sure they are there for you, as soon as they can be.
We are constantly working and researching finding the latest medical updates, support techniques, and teaching resources to best be there for you. And when the time comes, labor and birth doulas are on call, sometimes up to two months!
Birth is crazy, but doulas are the calm in the storm. What are some of the things you’ve learned about doulas? Did you have a doula at your birth, or do you want to have one?