March 22-28 is World Doula Week. To celebrate these birth professionals, Amy Rickard of Beloved Birth Doula Services will answer a reader-submitted question about the who, what and why of a doula.
*To win a copy of “Your Best Birth” and a complimentary Birth Plan planning session with Amy, visit our Facebook page!
1. What kind of training does a doula have that makes their services more valuable than any other kind of support person?
Most doulas have completed one of many rigorous certification courses, which can include, but are not limited to, an in-person training workshop, course work, training in breastfeeding and newborns, and a certain number of certifying births. During training a doula learns relaxation techniques, comfort measures, ways to help labor progress, and evidence based information to help families make informed decisions.
The support a trained professional doula provides has been shown to have multiple benefits. Many clinical studies have shown the use of a doula shortens the length of labor, reduce the need for Pitocin, and reduce the need for pain medication, epidurals, and cesareans. Doulas have also been shown to increase a mother’s satisfaction with her birth experience.
Having the loving support of family and friends during your birth is very important. However, the support a doula offers is unique. A doula brings with her special skills, experience, and knowledge to help you have a more satisfying and positive birth experience.
Being present for the birth of your child or of a sibling can be an extraordinary experience. For a mother, it can be wonderful to have the love and support of her loved ones during such an important event. Having a doula not only gives mom someone for support, but her friends and family valuable support as well.
A doula can help guide a partner in ways to support the laboring mom, but also allows them up to participate to their comfort level. Many times, partners find having a doula to be a source comfort and a calming presence. M. Baugh, whose family used a doula for their second birth, says, “As most know, labor is an amazing but stressful time for not only momma, but dad as well. The constant attention to momma’s needs and emotions during the process can be physically and emotionally straining on dad. Our doula was not only there for momma, but helped take some of the strain off of myself and allowed me to enjoy the process more. Her calm, nurturing approach to serving our family was priceless.”
For a child, attending the birth of a sibling can be a very special experience. My son was present for the birth of his sister and it was wonderful, but we planned carefully. It is important to take several things into consideration, such as the age of the child, the time of day, and who will care for the child during labor. A doula can help walk a family through these decisions. A doula can also suggest age appropriate books and videos to help prepare your child.
3. Do doulas attend homebirths?
Yes, in general doulas will attend births in the hospital, at home or in a birth center. However, occasionally a doula may have a specialty or choose to not work in a specific birth setting. It is important to ask each doula you interview if they work where you have chosen to birth. The care a doula provides is beneficial in all birth settings, rather at home in the hospital or in a birth center. We are fortunate to have a thriving birth community in Central Kentucky, allowing a birthing mother to find the doula, care provider and birth setting which is right for her.
It is never too late or too early to hire a doula. I have been hired anywhere between 8 and 38 weeks. However, I feel it is best to hire your doula between 20 and 30 weeks. The sooner you begin interviewing doulas, the more doulas you will have to choose from. If you wait till later in your pregnancy, some doulas may already have full schedules. Also, hiring a doula early in pregnancy gives you more opportunities to take advantage of her specialized knowledge and skills.
If you have waited till later in your pregnancy to hire a doula, don’t worry. We have an active doula community in Central Kentucky and you should still be able to find one to suit your needs.
5. Are doulas the same thing as midwives?
One of the most common questions I’m asked is “What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?”
A doula is a trained non-medical childbirth professional, who offers comfort measures, emotional support, and informational support to a woman and her partner throughout pregnancy and childbirth.
Unlike midwives, who are trained to provide medical care for their clients, doulas do not perform medical tasks, such as blood pressure, fetal heart monitoring or vaginal exams.
However, the support a professional doula offers is unique. She offers nurturing touch, reassurance, compassion, and knowledge. Throughout pregnancy, a doula is available to address any fear or concerns, to help educate and aid in finding up to date evidence based information, write birth preferences, and assist parents in learning to advocate for themselves.
Using a doula can be beneficial to women, rather they choose the care of a midwife, OB or family practitioner. During labor, a doula’s support is continuous, something most care provide are not able provide. The mother’s needs, along with the partners’, are the doula’s main focus. The support of a doula has been shown to reduce the length of labor, reduce the cesarean section rate, reduce the need for epidurals and increase a mother’s satisfaction with her birth experience.