Birth Doula FAQs
1. Will a Doula take over my partner's role in our birth experience?
This is a common concern, but the answer is absolutely not! In fact, a Doula can help your partner learn more about what to expect, how to prepare, and guide them in supporting you during intense moments. Often, a doula ends up supporting women's partners as well by lending them a skilled ear to voice personal concerns or questions, reassuring them in their own times of need, and providing breaks or opportunities to step out for food or rest. Article: "Doulas: Support for Dads," Mother's Advocate Blog
2. Will a doula support me if I choose/need a medicalized birth?
Yes! Doulas are here to aid you in navigating your child's birth. However that looks for you and your family is the right way.
3. What does a doula do?
On the most basic level, a doula is the guardian of your oxytocin, the "love hormone" that facilitates birth and bonding. She supports your unique physical, emotional, and intellectual needs from pregnancy through labor, to ensure you have the safest and most fulfilling experience possible. This may involve different techniques and resources for different families. A doula:
Meets with your family prior to birth to answer your questions about birth, teach you practical techniques for pain management (and practice them), help you prepare for birth, and guide you in navigating your many options related to birth location and attendants-- handling the placenta, vaccinations, etc.
Connects you with local resources when needed (midwives/doctors, support groups, placenta encapsulators, milk banks, lactation support, herbal remedies/practitioners, abdominal massage therapists, literature/online information, encouraging birth stories/videos, etc.)
Provides consistent support via phone or email whenever you have questions or worries.
Is "on-call," ready 24/7 to meet you as soon as you want labor support, often long before you see your midwife or doctor, and stays by your side through the first moments of baby's life.
Comforts you with hot/cold compresses, music, lighting, aromatherapy, massage, guided visualizations or chants, herbs, acupressure, moxibustion, birthing ball, and more to create a safe, deeply meaningful and ceremonious atmosphere. She will also bring her rebozo, a strong cloth traditionally used in Mexico for labor support, carrying babies, as a shield from the sun, and fashion garment. She or your partner can use the rebozo to relieve pressure in the hips, back, or abdomen, as well as other uses.
Supports your partner or birth companions so they can support you and enjoy the birth.
Knows when to stay by your side, providing gentle encouragement, when to energetically motivate you, and when to back off to give you privacy.
Is trained on ideal ways to (or not to) speak to and touch women in each stage of labor, without taking any level of intensity personally.
May be the only professional who stays with you consistently while doctors and nurses rotate in their shifts, and the only one who works for you rather than the hospital or birth center. (That is not to say other professionals will not be amazing care providers, but that it can be comforting to count on one familiar and trusted face from beginning to end.)
Provides basic breastfeeding support and offers postpartum comfort before leaving you with your new family.
Meets with you again a week postpartum to check in and advise new mothers on physical and emotional recovery, and whatever else comes up.
It is important to note that a doula strives to be impartial, and to meet you where you are. She cannot make decisions for you, or demand any particular treatment for you from your care providers. While she will "arm" you with any information you may need, it is up to you to communicate and defend your desires to other professionals.
4. If I have a midwife, is there any reason to have a doula as well?
It is common to hire both a midwife and a doula. Most midwives provide incredible, holistic, woman-centered care. That said, their jobs can keep them quite busy with the physical side of birth. While your midwife may offer certain forms of spiritual, emotional, or intellectual support as well, she cannot focus on your needs in those arenas as consistently as a doula while you are in labor, especially during intense moments. Doulas and midwifes often work together as a team.
5. Aside from my enjoyment of the experience, how can a doula affect the outcomes of my birth?
Studies consistently show that the support of a doula during birth reduces the likelihood of: Cesearean Sections, medical interventions (e.g. Pitocin--a drug used to induce labor, epidural-- a form of pain relief that numbs and immobilizes the lower half of a woman's body, forceps, etc.), preterm birth, excessive stress, postpartum depression, and more. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) includes doulas on their checklist to ensure safer births worldwide.
Birth is orchestrated through a complex, sensitive, and interdependent dance of hormones, biochemical processes, physiological and emotional responses. It is important to protect a woman's feeling of safety and love to ensure the best physical outcomes for her and her baby. From an evolutionary standpoint, all mammals (humans included) are hardwired to stall or stop the birth process if any stress or danger is instinctively perceived in their environment, which can cause stress to the baby or the mother's body, and lead to complications. A doula contributes to families' important sense of tranquility, consistency, and security.
6. What if my doula misses my birth?
A doula can secure a trusted backup to be available on your E.D.D. in case of emergency. Feel free to ask questions about or meet the backup prior to birth. In the rare event that I miss your birth, you may be issued a full or partial refund, depending on what services were already provided (such as prenatal visits), or whether a backup doula attended in my place, all of which will be outlined in our contract.
7. How do I choose the right doula?
The most important quality in a doula is how comfortable you feel with her. Often, her expertise will be less important than the bond you feel with her, so trust your instincts. Many areas offer "Meet the Doula" mixers to allow you to meet with several women at once to see who you click with. It is your prerogative to interview more than one person to find the right fit! It is also wise to choose someone who lives close to you and/or your birth location.