A doula is a person whose sole purpose is to emotionally and physically assist the birthing family during their labor time. Doula literally means “female servant” and in labor that is precisely what a doula does- she serves the family and assists them in having the BEST birth they can.
So how can a doula help YOUR birth? The answer to this question really depends on you and what you want. Here are a few ways a doula can be effective and useful during pregnancy and birth (and even postpartum).
~ Many doulas meet with the pregnant mother before the birth a few times to find out what she wants, who she is, and how they can best serve her. The comforting assurance and education gained from an experienced labor assistant cannot be underestimated. She can answer questions, help you choose a care provider, guide you as you research birth, and provide some education. It is a wonderful idea to have your birth partner also meet the doula. In labor they may spend more time with the doula than you do.
~ Sometimes couples feel they don’t need a doula because their partner is trained to help them birth during their birthing class. While a trained partner is fantastic, a doula can be a great source of help for HIM too. Some partners ask that a doula be hired so that THEY can benefit! A doula can give dad a break if he needs one, bring him and mama food as they labor together, and basically be another set of hands. Sometimes in the heat of labor even the most knowledgeable dad can forget a few things, while an experienced doula will be able to fill in the gaps.
~ A doula can serve many purposes, not just the hands on comfort of labor. Some moms labor well alone or simply with their partner nearby. For those moms a doula who is cooking or caring for older children or even tidying the house and dealing with in-laws is a blessed addition to the birth environment. If you would like your older children present at the birth, a doula to take them in and out as needed can be a wonderful idea.
~ Most people probably hire a doula for her hands-on birth knowledge. They want somebody who knows just how to touch and comfort a laboring woman. She will often bring a goodie bag of comfort tools for the laboring woman too. She may be knowledgeable about essential oils, massage, or many other labor comfort techniques. Sometimes her simple calm and experienced female energy is enough to change the tone of a birth.
~ A doula can be incredibly helpful postpartum too. Most doulas offer a postpartum visit where they come and check up on mom and baby and help with any bumps that mom may be having on her breastfeeding journey. In fact, there are even specific “postpartum doulas” that can be hired to help clean or care for mom during the immediate transition time following birth. A postpartum doula is especially helpful for women who have little or no help from family and friends just after birth.
In short, a good doula can help not just the mother, but the entire family experience a smoother transition from couple to parents. A doula can provide physical, hands-on comfort, they can relieve dad, they can even help deal with unexpected things that come up, like a long labor or a change of plans. If you chose to hire a doula, talk to your midwives here at Edenway Birth Center and we will help you find one that can best serve your family.