What is a Doula?
The first time I learned what a doula was, I was 36 weeks pregnancy with my first child. My midwife told me that I needed a doula. I had no idea what a doula was. She briefly explained to me what a doula was and gave me an email address for a fabulous doula.
If you are in a similar boat, pregnant and with no idea what a doula is; this post should clear things up and help you decide if having the support of a doula is right for you!
What does a doula do?
In previous decades a doula might have been referred to as a “labor coach.” A doula provides emotional, informational and physical support to a birthing person or couple. Let's break that down a little bit. What do those types of support look like at a birth?
Emotional support: A doula supports a birthing woman emotionally by providing a safe space for her to feel what she feels. Your partner is undoubtedly having their own emotions and having a doula there allows them the space to feel those things as well. A good doula will also look for opportunities for the birth partner and/or dad to be as involved as they wants to be! You both may also feel more calm knowing that someone knowledgeable about birth is present. A doula cannot answer medical questions, but she may be able to help you better understand what is going on, which leads us to...
Informational support: While a doula cannot provide medical advice or opinions, she can help you get the information that you need. A doula can help facilitate discussion and help you to understand the information that your care provider is giving you. Informational support really extends into the “before birthing” time as well. Ideally, you will know most of their birthing options before birthing begins, and while a childbirth class is the ideal way to get this knowledge, a doula can help to fill in the gaps, help you better understand the information you've learned, or maybe even help you to understand what kinds of information you need to know ahead of time.
Physical support: Physical support is perhaps the broadest category of support that a doula provides. This can be everything from massage, to supporting a leg, to supporting a birthing woman while her partner gets a meal. Physical support is often a physically demanding part of the process of birth and birth partners often find it helpful to have someone else to tag team with for this part.
What a Doula doesn't do.
There is sometimes some confusion about the difference between a midwife and a doula. Many people are under the impression that a doula is “kind of like a midwife.” But there are some significant differences in our roles. The primary difference is that a doula is NOT a medical professional. Ok, that may be overstating it a bit as there are some doulas who are also medical professionals, but they are medical professionals IN ADDITION to being a doula and not because they are a doula.
Because doula work is not medical, a doula (who is acting as a doula) DOES NOT:
- Give medical advice
- Perform medical tests
- Check fetal heart tones
- Perform vaginal exams
- Catch babies
I had a mentor who used to say, “If it requires gloves, we don't do it.” There are some exceptions to this. I have worn gloves in order to massage an amniotic-fluid-covered back, for example, but wearing gloves is certainly an exception and not the rule.
Nurses, midwives, and doctors are great at performing all of the medical tasks. And most of them genuinely care about the women, babies, birth partners and families that they serve. As such, many of them also care about the emotional health of everyone involved. Having a doula at your birth means that you have someone with you who is dedicated solely to your physical comfort, emotional well-being, and who is helping to empower you to make the choices that are right for you and your growing family.
I am a homeschooling mom of two little boys and wife to a musician who also works as a freelance videographer. We have three beautiful cats (which is admittedly too many), two fish, and a gazillion “rolypoly's" outside that the kids claim as pets. I enjoy gardening and researching everything.
My introduction to doulas came when I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first child. My midwife looked at me and said, “You need a doula.” I had no idea what a doula was, but she gave me an email address for an amazing doula who eventually attended the birth of my first.
When my first little guy was just 7 months old, I found out that I was pregnant with my second. I promptly called my doula friend who said, “You need Hypnobabies!” I signed up and took the Hypnobabies class she was teaching at the time and never looked back! My Hypnobabies birth was amazing! My husband and I could hardly believe that birth could be so comfortable and calm! After a fabulous second birth experience I decided that I wanted to be a part of helping families have the best birth for them. I started by becoming a doula. I trained with DONA International. In 2014 I decided to begin the process of becoming a Hypnobabies Instructor. I was officially certified as a Hypnobabies instructor and Hypnodoula in June of 2015. I love helping families become educated about childbirth and supporting them through pregnancy. In 2016, I officially completed the Becoming Dad Certification process and am now "Becoming Dad Certified."