Most women seek a prenatal care provider who they trust with the well-being of their baby. But in the stressful times of pregnancy and the intensity of the delivery room, who is looking after the well-being of the mother?
Spouses, partners or family members can play that role, but a doula is another choice moms can make to enhance their childbirth experience.
Doulas do not give medical advice, but they provide continuous educational, emotional and even physical support to a laboring mom and her partner. The Lexington area has many doulas working to give mothers a better birth.
Amy Rickard, of Beloved Birth Doula Services, is a Central Kentucky birth doula and a Hypnobabies certified Hypnodoula. She was encouraged to become a doula after having one at the birth of her son.
Amy advises parents to do their research before hiring a doula, and make sure they are a good fit for their family.
“Research agencies, Google interview questions, and even ask your care provider for recommendations,” she said. “It helps you know that they are doula-friendly and that they can work well with that person to avoid tension. It does take a personality match because you are working in such intimate circumstances.”
When interviewing a doula, here are some questions to consider:
- What training have you had? May I see proof of certification?
- Who is your back-up doula? Will I get to meet this person during my pregnancy?
- What is your fee and the services included?
- What is your birth philosophy?
- How often will we meet? Are you always available for calls or emails?
- How early will you join us for labor, and how long will you stay after the baby is born?
- How many births have you attended?
- Why did you become a doula?
In a world of endless childbirth books and online resources, it is easy for a mother to feel overwhelmed with information. While most hospitals offer childbirth classes, Amy says a doula can help with questions you have long after that class is over.
“Childbirth classes cover certain topics and you may retain bits of information,” she said. “You might think, ‘I remember hearing about vaginal exams but I don’t remember why or why not I would need one.’ You’re not going to remember everything. Only so much information can be absorbed and you’re going to have questions later.”
Research has shown that women who had continuous support in labor were less likely to have pain medication, C-Sections, negative feelings about childbirth, or vacuum or forceps-assisted births. They also had shorter labors and were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births.
The delivery room can be a tense environment where moms feel vulnerable. Amy believes a doula can work with the family to keep everyone calm, without excluding anyone.
“Doulas help you know your options readily, provide a calming presence, and they’re not as emotionally involved so they can stay calmer,” she said. “Different dads have different comfort levels, so we can be a guide for dad and work as a team. Intense labor can be hard on a family and to have that unbiased support in the room is worth every penny.”
Amber Duncan used a doula because she wanted all the support she could get for something as new as her first birth. She interviewed five doulas before making her choice.
“During the birth, she stood up for me when I was vulnerable,” Amber said. “She reminded me and encouraged me of all the choices I wanted to go through with when I was blanking out and just wanted the easier way out. Thinking back on it, I guess she was the in-the-moment, go-to gal, while I was totally off in la-la-baby-birthing land.”
As the mother of two, Amy knows that parenting begins with pregnancy, not just after the baby is born. She believes doulas can help create a happy beginning to that journey.
“A satisfying birth experience leads into your parenting,” she said. “Birth is the beginning of your parenting life, so approach it with as much care as you will the rest of your child’s life.”
Amy Rickard is a trained doula serving the Lexington area. Learn more about Amy and Beloved Birth Doula Services