Can’t my friend be my doula? If your friend is a trained doula, absolutely!
In the second post in my series on what a doula does and why they’re so beneficial, I’m covering the difference between a friend or family member offering emotional and physical support in labor and a trained doula.
Sometimes families want the support of a doula and well meaning friends or family members offer to act as a doula. Even though moms love and cherish these people, usually for their second birth they end up hiring a trained doula! Here’s why.
The Cochrane research review made note that labor support is most beneficial when provided by a person trained as a doula, not just an attentive and supportive friend or family member (although they are great to have too!).
Your friends and family love you and are invested in you and in this baby. Usually they aren’t so much invested in labor or your birth plan. As a doula my job is just to help you reach your goals, and I’m in no hurry to meet your baby like friends or family may be.
In labor women may moan, cry, curse, get naked, puke, gush water (amniotic fluid), and a host of other body fluids and reactions. To a friend or family member, this would be cause for concern! And they may not let you live it down. To a doula, all these things are normal and welcome sights, and we are professionals who respect your privacy.
If you call your friend/fam support person in labor, they may or may not be able to leave work, arrange childcare, or even wake up in the middle of the night! Your doula is on call and has everything lined up to support you when you need it, even if it’s 4am.
If your friends or family see you in pain, they want to help or take away the pain, even if they don’t know how, and because they love you they’ll worry about you! For mom this can cause a snowball cycle of tension. Your doula does the opposite. If she sees you in pain she knows what comfort measures will help, she knows how to encourage the sounds and movements that will be comforting and offer progress. Unlike a friend or family member as a support person, with your doula you don’t have to worry about any baggage- she brings none (well, metaphorical baggage. I do bring a small doula bag of tools and personal necessities) 😉
What if baby is positioned funny? Not descending as expected? What if your provider mentions your baby is posterior and -1 station, will your friend/fam know what to do to offer comfort and facilitate progress? Doulas do! What if your provider wants you to consider an augmenting agent like pitocin, Foley, or AROM? Does your labor support know what those things are? Doulas do, and can give you information, listen to your concerns, and help you know what questions to ask your provider. A friend or family member may say “I think you should do it,” or “I don’t think you should do it.” Doulas won’t do that; they won’t offer or undermine medical advice, they support any decision you make.
All that said- I do really love supportive friends and family! I love to work alongside families. Women benefit the most from trained labor support, and friends and family make amazing assets alongside a doula. They can be incredible emotional support- they know you and your doula knows labor! I’ve seen them whisper the perfect encouraging words, help keep mom and dad hydrated and fed, wipe sweat from mom’s brow, and I’ve witnessed families work as a team along with a trained doula.
Let your friends and family do what friends and family do, and let your doula do what a doula does!
Next week- what about your nurse? Won’t they do all these things? Or if I have a midwife, why would I need a doula?
Do you plan to have a friend or family member present for labor support? Why or why not?