What is a doula, and do I need one?
A doula is a trained professional whose role is to emotionally, physically, and spiritually support the family through their pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum journey. Independent doulas do not work for the care provider, birth center, or hospital. Doulas work within the ethical framework of their certifying organization. A doula will stand firm in helping you advocate for your needs and wishes. The doula typically starts to build an intimate relationship with the mother and extended family in the early part of the third trimester. Doulas usually meet prenatally with their clients at least 2-3 times. These meetings allow for the doula to get to know her client’s concerns, fears, wishes, and strengths. Doulas can be an enormous resource with childbirth education, developing a birth plan, and navigating the dynamics of caring for a newborn and breastfeeding. Doulas will also gently remind moms when they have departed from their birth plan. Doulas are familiar with the challenging, sometimes painful process of bringing a baby into the world. They stand in the truth that labor is pain with a purpose, and patience is paramount in allowing the mother and baby to travel this journey on their unique timeline. Often main support person/father is concerned that a doula will try to exclude them from the birth. A reputable doula will only add positivity and a sense of peacefulness to the birth room. She will offer suggestions and guidance to the team so they can actively participate in using many different comfort measures to support the laboring mom. The doula will provide unbiased, evidence-based information to the family concerning any medical intervention or procedure. Statistically, having a doula present can reduce the rate of cesarean by up to 40% in first -time mothers. With the increase of c-section rates topping off at 1 in 4 in the United States, hiring a doula is a no brainer. Most doulas also have an excellent rapport with the nursing staff. They are skilled at humanizing everyone in the birth room, facilitating an atmosphere of everyone being on the same team and working towards the precious goal of a safe and memorable birth experience. Doulas are there to relieve the support person when they need to go to the bathroom, get something to eat, or just take a walk. Sometimes the support person will need to accompany the baby to the NICU if complications arise. The doula would stay with the mother and continue to support her. Doulas tend to be extremely intuitive, caring, empathetic individuals who will apply their attributes to hold space for the laboring mother and her family as they welcome their baby into the world. Lastly, the cost of hiring a doula should never hinder someone from getting the support they desire. Many doulas in training will provide services for free or a very reduced rate. Families may want to put a request on their baby registry for their families to gift them the funds to hire a doula. For more information, I encourage you to seek out doulas in your area and check out DONA.ORG and the many other doula organizations.
I am proud to be a certified Doula working with families in my area. I have stood witness to some challenging situations, hard decisions, and truly beautiful births. It is a privilege and honor to be invited into such an intimate space. I am so grateful to all my families for teaching me more about myself each time I attend a birth.