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What is a Doula? Simply put, a doula is a labor and childbirth coach. However, I can tell you from experience, a doula is oh so much more than that! Doulas provide support, compassion and a voice for you before, during and after birth. As a good friend who is now a doula once told me, they are your “sisters” in the whole childbirth process. A good doula is worth a million bucks (but thankfully they don’t cost THAT much!) and you will not regret a single penny that you spend on one.
Prenatal Care Doula Style
The awesomeness of a doula starts right off the bat. They come to YOU! No finding clothes and shoes that fit to waddle your way to an appointment. They come right to your house (and, even better, totally understand when your house is a wreck because you can’t lean over to scrub anything with that huge belly in the way!!!) for all visits. They sit and gab with you about your feelings – physical and emotional. They answer questions. They bring you handouts, website lists, sample birth plans, reading lists… It’s endless! They are an amazing wealth of knowledge!
Most importantly, unlike most baby factory OB offices, they take the time to know YOU for you and not what your chart says about you! If you see them out and about, I can guarantee they will recognize you. Who can say this about their OBGYN unless they’ve had oodles of babies or a complicated pregnancy? Hardly anyone (okay, MAYBE if you live in a small town or something – there are always exceptions).
I remember my doula , Belinda, would just sit and talk to me for what felt like hours (I am sure it wasn’t – often she had her kids with her and I know they wouldn’t have lasted for hours in my house – even with 3 cats and a toddler to chase around!). She really integrated herself into our family and I felt 100% that I could trust her. Prenatal care is crucial in building trust. And how can you rely on someone to help bring your most important person in the world INTO the world if you don’t trust them?
Labor and Delivery Doula Care
The prenatal care builds the trust and the relationship, but the labor and delivery care is the meat and potatoes of where a doula is worth her (or his) weight in gold. I don’t say that to minimize the prenatal care because it was instrumental and meant so much to me. However, if you ask someone about her doula, the answers you’ll likely get are about the labor and delivery because you wouldn’t hire a doula (just like you wouldn’t choose your OBGYN) based on just the prenatal care. You want someone to help you bring your new little person into this world the way that YOU want it.
For me, my doula was my voice when I knew I wouldn’t be in the right state of mind to stand up for myself. Even with a supportive doctor, nurses are used to caring for patients who have epidurals (just over 61% of childbirths are performed with epidurals according to the C.D.C.). While they can be made aware not to ask about epidurals, they don’t always listen. You are also not guaranteed to see your doctor when you arrive at the hospital. Often doctors will make decisions based on what is best for him/her rather than what is best for the patient. I saw an episode of “One Born Every Minute” (a labor and delivery show on the Lifetime network) where a doctor stated he hadn’t done a vaginal birth in such a long time that he had almost forgotten how to say the word “vaginal”! Having someone there with the presence of mind to speak for you when someone involved is working against your birth plan can be crucial in keeping away unnecessary interventions.
Testimonials From Mom’s About Their Doula Experiences
I asked a few friends who had a doula what it meant to them. I got answers like “It gave me peace. I had an anxiety free labor.” (Marci) and “She kept me at ease. She was like a wedding planner but for births. She made sure I had what I needed, made sure the nurses followed my wishes and remembered to have pictures taken right after LO came out.” (Clpena) Those are just two examples, but every person I asked commented on their labor and delivery. Husbands are great support systems, but often they don’t know exactly what to say OR even feel that they have the power to make any difference if they were to say it.
Doula Certification and How They Help During Birth
Doulas have to attend a minimum of three births (a total of 15 hours), so they have some birth experience before certification. They also have a whole heck of a lot of training (//www.dona.org/develop/birth_cert.php) to be certified as Doula. They know what to expect out of births, doctors, nurses…. and what questions to ask and when to ask them. This can literally be the difference between a vaginal birth and a c-section in many cases (interventions often become a slippery slope to a c-section). They also know just the right spot for counter pressure during a contraction, exactly what words to say to get you through a contraction, the best positions to encourage that baby into (and out of – in the right direction!) the birth canal,… I just can’t emphasize how valuable the right doula can be during labor and delivery.
Doula’s Help Post-Birth with Breastfeeding and Beyond
Doulas are required to take classes in breastfeeding as well. Often, they are certified lactation consultants (but many aren’t, so ask if you really want this). They can manhandle those boobies like no other and are readily available for baby and you at delivery, so take advantage. Research has shown that babies who are put to the breast in the first hour after delivery tend to do better in the whole breastfeeding learning process. Most doulas are pretty passionate about breastfeeding, so they will help you learn, help baby learn, and support you along the way (as I’ve mentioned, it can be a pretty trying process – especially with your first child or if you run into any issues). They do at least one follow up visit after the baby is born, but I haven’t known a doula to refuse to visit earlier (mine came by about a week after delivery) or more often if needed. Take full advantage of your doula after delivery for breastfeeding support AND emotional support! Typically, if you call, they will be there for you to talk you through whatever is bothering you or to do a home visit if needed or desired. That’s included in what you pay them for, so get every penny’s worth!!!
Who Should Use a Doula?
If you’re planning a natural childbirth, I honestly wouldn’t do it without a doula. Midwives are FABULOUS, but they tend to be too busy to stay with you throughout your whole labor (unless you are doing a home birth – a post for another day!). The emotional and physical support a doula offers is crucial, in my honest opinion, to get you through your labor and not give in to the pressures our society has put on women to use modern medicine during this natural process of birthing a child. Even if you plan on an epidural or even a c-section, the prenatal care and after care alone would be enough incentive for me to fork out the money for a doula. To have a familiar face and emotional support while torrential amounts of hormones are surging through your body – someone who knows you and knows your wishes – is priceless. For more information on doulas, visit the website www.dona.org. There, you can find lists of DONA certified doulas in your area.
Share Your Doula Stories
Feel free to share your stories or ask questions about doulas in the “Comments” section below! I welcome your experiences as they can only help make this community more helpful to women who are seeking a more natural childbirth experience.