You may have thought about everything when it comes to your birth, but here is one more thing you might want to add to the list: a birth doula. Essentially, doulas are professional birth coaches who provide emotional, informational, physical, and mental support to women through pregnancy, delivery, and the early postpartum period. Some doulas have had additional training and can offer specific services as a Bereavement Doula, a Postpartum Doula, or even a Sibling Doula, to name a few.  Today we’ll be talking specifically about birth doulas.

These doulas attend births in the hospital, at a birth center, or in the client’s home.  They do not provide medical care, rather they use their training and knowledge about childbirth to be a support system for the family.  Studies have shown that women who have used doulas for their birth experience are less likely to use pain-relief medications, have a lower chance of a cesarean birth, and even have a more positive childbirth experience! Here are a few of the services a birth doula provides.

Informational/Educational Support – Doulas share evidence-based information to assist families in making an informed decision about their care. Even before the baby is due, doulas foster a relationship in which the mother and her partner can feel free to ask questions, express concerns, and create a birth plan catered to their preferences. As mentioned, doulas do not give medical advice or replace a healthcare provider, but the knowledge they have about pregnancy and labor can help their clients better understand common procedures, interventions, and alternative options. 

Physical Support – Physical support is a major aspect of the care a birth doula provides – from making sure the laboring mother is comfortable in her birth space, to helping her use natural pain relief techniques to stay relaxed, to encouraging her to stay fed and hydrated.  These birth professionals come armed with a treasure trove of comfort measures that can help the mom focus her energy, remain calm, and manage the pain of labor so she can have a positive labor experience.  

Emotional Support – Doulas strive to help families feel supported and informed throughout their pregnancy journey. At a time when many mothers wonder if they have the strength and stamina to endure the birth experience, a doula is there throughout active labor to provide reassurance as labor progresses.  Whether the mom needs a boost of confidence, a shoulder to cry on, or a listening ear, the birth doula has her back. Sometimes, it is the partner that needs this emotional support more than the mom in labor! Doulas can offer the same support to them as well.

It is important to note that the role of a birth doula does not replace the birth partner. Instead, they are there to complement and enhance this special experience. Support looks different for every family.  Some partners like to have a more active role in the birth process, while others prefer to be more hands-off, and some mothers prefer to have female support during their labor or no hands-on physical support at all.  A doula’s role is to provide unbiased, evidence-based care for the laboring mother and her family however they choose to define “support.”

If you think a doula may be an important member to add to your birth team, plan to interview a few different ones to determine which doula will be the best fit for you.  Not only will you want to be sure you “click” with her personality, it is also wise to chat with her about her training and experience, and to see if her training organization has required her to continue her education since her certification.  Ask questions about her philosophy about birth and how she most often supports her clients and their families. Include your partner in these interviews as well – their input is valuable and you’ll want to be sure they click with the doula you ultimately choose.

For more information about the services a doula provides, contact The Nest.