For all of time and throughout most cultures women in childbirth have been supported, usually by a female family member or close friend. Over time, this important support person has faded out of most births. Some of this is a result of families living farther apart than ever before. While some is due to our fast-paced medicalized birth environment- which is leaving a void for personalized support, advocacy and evidence-based information. Part of the solution? Doulas!!
SO, what IS a DOULA?!
In short, a doula is a trained childbirth professional. They are equipped with the knowledge, skills and techniques to guide you through pregnancy, labor and also help you adjust during your postpartum period and beyond! A doula works with your care provider and your partner to ensure you feel safe and supported. A doula adds to your birth experience in 3 main ways…
Doulas provide physical comfort techniques to laboring women including massage, counter-pressure, hot/cold compresses, acupressure and more. This helps so much during labor; not just as pain relief but to comfort and relax the mother as well. Your doula may suggest certain position changes depending on how labor is progressing and during pushing they may assist in holding your legs or even capturing some of these special moments on camera! A doula also provides physical support to your partner by allowing them to take breaks when they need to. Labor can be long and stressful for our parters as well! Having a doula ensures you are never alone (unless you want to be, and that’s ok too!).
Perhaps most importantly, your doula is there to help support you through the ups and downs during this most precious time in your life. While care providers are primarily focused on “healthy mom and baby”, they don’t always take into consideration our emotional and mental wellbeing. As joyous as birth can be, for some, it can also be a source of deep trauma. Everybody wants mom and baby to be healthy but our health is not just physical. The way we are treated during and after birth matters! When things don’t go the way we hoped in labor or postpartum, your doula is there to help you process your feelings and can also help recognize when you need to seek a professional.
We live in a world where we have SO MUCH INFORMATION in the palms of our hands. It’s pretty amazing to have the kind of instant access that we do however, when it comes to important decision making- like the ones you have to make during pregnancy and labor- how do you know what’s good information and what’s not? And when you do find quality information, how do you decide what is right for YOU and YOUR FAMILY? This is where having a doula in your corner can make all the difference. Doulas are trained and educated to provide unbiased, evidence-based information. They help clear up any confusion you may have and help you make informed decisions every step of the way. And because your doula gets to know you and your partner on a personal level, they provide resources and empower you to explore what makes sense for you and your family.
Labor is unpredictable and when unexpected things occur (as they often do), there ‘s no better way to be prepared and empowered than to hire a doula. That being said, it’s important to interview multiple doulas to find the one that you connect with and whose philosophies aline with yours. (This goes for your care providers too!!)
If you are pregnant and want to have a doula but are unsure of how to afford it, you have options! It is still fairly rare, but some insurance companies are now covering doula services so check with them first. I’ve heard of mothers who have added this to their baby registry and had family and friends contribute towards their birth or postpartum doula! Many doulas offer payment plans and if you are pregnant during tax time many will allow you to pay them when your taxes come in. My personal favorite way to make some extra money? Selling some unused or unwanted items online! Not only does it free up space in your home for the new baby but it could also give you both the best start to life. Sounds like a win-win to me!