Recently a first time mom came to me and said “My midwife said I need a doula. So I think I need you. But don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t even really know what you do!” We laughed, I told her no offense was taken, and I let her know how I can help, what a doula does, and why it’s beneficial. This is a common reaction, expectant families have heard hiring a doula is helpful, but they’re not totally sure what they do.
I totally understand the confusion. I’m happy to explain! In another post I’ll go more into the studies and evidence on their benefits, but today I just want to tackle what it is exactly a doula does. There’s much info online about how the term doula comes from Greek for slave or servant, and how this applies to expectant families, but I kind of feel that’s all a bit outdated. I’m not so much a servant as more of a pregnancy and birth concierge, a helpful guide, or a supportive team member for your birth. It’s kind of a lot to cover, because if it’s just a support person can’t your friend or family member do it? Won’t your nurse or midwife fill that role? I’ve created a series that will answer all these questions, and today we’re going to cover “what does a doula do?”
What does a modern doula do?
As a doula in this day and age, I offer support and resources to my clients to assist them in planning and achieving their best birth. There are three stages that I’m able to be helpful to you, all included in my birth doula packages.
During pregnancy I listen to concerns, answer questions, and support families as they plan for their baby and birth, however that may look. I have referrals for resources you may need in pregnancy- from OBs to midwives to birth classes to chiropractors and photographers- all people I’ve worked with and trust. I visit you in your home to go over early labor coping strategies and I help you think through what your goals are and assist in building your birth plan. We talk relaxation, concerns, and plans. I offer guidance and reassurance, without any agenda but to support you and your goals. I help you feel prepared for baby’s birth day.
Additionally, I offer cloth diaper classes, Babywearing 101, and birth classes.
photo courtesy Birth Boot Camp
On the big day, I join you in labor when you feel you need the support, usually in active labor. It varies from family to family and birth to birth, and you may only need the presence and quiet encouragement of your doula, or we may use several tricks and tools, but these are some of the things I may do- use a rebozo or positioning techniques to encourage baby’s optimal position for birth, encouragement and emotional support, utilize non medical means to facilitate labor progress, use birth balls and peanut balls, encourage and show partner how to be involved in whatever way you’d like, if desired use your essential oils in labor to curb nausea or discomfort, keep you and partner hydrated, help create an ideal space where you can be comfortable and labor in, as well as what most people look forward to- the physical comfort of touch, massage, hip squeezes, and counter pressure. I never take the role of or interfere with your care provider, rather I’m an asset to be used as a part of the team supporting you in birth. I never take the place of your partner, we work together on this team to support you. Doula support is beneficial for everyone, whether it’s a water birth, cesarean birth, induction, epidural, etc. No two births are the same, and most of the time physical and emotional comfort measures are all that’s needed, but studies show having a trained support person for your labor helps moms need fewer interventions and feel more satisfied. My goal is to help you reach your goals, and make sure you feel supported the whole way.
photo courtesy Kourtnie Elizabeth Documentary
In the immediate postpartum I help with a smooth transition for mom and baby. I have specialized lactation training and if you plan to breastfeed I’m able to help with that first latch and comfortable positioning, or if needed I can help with pumping and bottle feeding. Sometimes the immediate postpartum support a doula offers is overlooked, but it’s so beneficial for moms and babies. In the case of a cesarean birth I talk to parents about what to expect, comfort after surgery, and how to balance a new baby with recovery. I encourage mom and dad to have skin to skin time and bonding with baby, but mostly step back and allow parents to soak in their new baby. I help you understand what comes next and then leave you to relax, rest, and bond with your new baby. I’m still available to answer questions or listen to concerns in the postpartum period, whether it’s about baby, breastfeeding, or adjustment to postpartum life. Once you’re home and settled, I come visit you at home within the first 6 weeks. Most visitors are oohing and aahing over baby (and of course I can’t help but ooh and aah at the cute babies too!), but I come to listen to you, let your process your birth, see how you’re doing, and if you’re overwhelmed or struggling I can refer you to resources should you need additional support. The postpartum period is such a sacred and vulnerable time, my clients know they still have my support. I also offer belly binding to encourage physical healing and recovery, and postpartum doula services should you want more in depth help and support.
That’s a lot, right? This is a long blog post, because it truly is a lot that a modern doula does! They walk alongside the expectant family from pregnancy to postpartum and support them the whole way through. Now that I’ve said all of that, what I offer can all generally be summed up in professional and compassionate physical and emotional support and resources. That’s the short version!
The next posts in this series will talk about how a doula is different from an untrained labor support person like a friend or family member, and then how a doula’s support is different from the support of a nurse, midwife, or OB. Then finally a post detailing the evidence for doulas for all the study and statistic nerds like me! I hope you’ll check those out too!
Was there anything on this list that surprised you? Before you read this, what did you think a doula was?
-Dallas – Fort Worth – Doula – Natural Birth – VBAC – Cesarean – Epidural – Water Birth – Birth Center – Hospital Birth – Postpartum Doula – Belly Binding – Cloth Diaper Classes – Birth Classes – DFW Doula –