So, you already know some of the services that doulas offer to women throughout the perinatal period. But guess what — the basics are just the beginning!
Because doulas really structure their care to fit the needs or wishes of each individual family, the variety of benefits that come with a doula is expansive. Below are just a few of them.
Doulas offer unbiased and evidence-based information about your options for care. They guide you through what to expect during labor and delivery, and help you to establish some birth wishes — usually with some form of a birth plan.
They provide you with suggestions on how to manage pregnancy discomforts — eating, sleeping, physical activity, etc.
Doulas help you to process and navigate the major transition you are embarking on physically and emotionally, both as an individual and ,if applicable, with a partner.
Your doula is connected to other professionals in the community who offer services to pregnant women. She's also in a position to pass on recommendations from her other clients.
She can, for instance, refer you to childbirth educators, massage therapists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, counselors or photographers who come with high praise from other women.
Furthermore, your doula will be familiar with the health care providers and facilities in your area and be able to steer you toward a setting and support team that best enables the kind of birth you want.
Doulas will bring you snacks and meals that satisfy your pregnancy cravings and still provide you with the nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy.
Doulas will go for walks with you to keep you active. Doulas will offer basic massages and teach your partner or another loved one how to release tension in your most troublesome muscle groups. Your doula will bring you books and music to share with your unborn baby.
Interested in art projects that capture fond memories of the pregnancy? Whether it's photos, poetry, or belly molds and body paint, your doula can help you to make your wishes a reality.
Doulas will sit with nervous partners and address all their concerns. They will be on call 24 hours a day for the weeks leading up to your due date, ready to come to your aid as soon as you need their support.
During Labor and Delivery:
Doulas will come and meet you at home or in your health care facility, whenever you let them know you want support. They will check in with you beforehand, or as soon as you are showing signs that you are in early labor or pre-labor.
They will offer suggestions to help you cope with contractions and relax, or get in the zone and speed the process along.
Depending on what you are feeling, they will recommend certain positions, provide touch therapy (massage, counter-pressure, acupressure) and help your partner feel comfortable in supporting you, as well.
They will remind you that the sensations you are experiencing are normal, that people have been giving birth since the beginning of time, and that you are in control of the situation.
Most importantly, they will stay with you. This continuous support is what recent studies attribute to shorter labors, fewer medical interventions and more positive experiences for women.
Whether you are meeting your doula at home or in a health care setting, they will likely bring snacks and other foods for you and your partner (and themselves!! and maybe even the nurses!!) to eat.
Your doula will know where to get the best ice in a hospital, how to track down extra pillows, whether the health care facility has a birth ball you can borrow, or a squatting bar or a tub to sit in.
Throughout labor and delivery, your doula will help you think through some of the birth wishes you discussed prenatally. They'll make sure that, unless there is a true medical emergency, you have time and space to make decisions about what happens to your body.
Doulas will make sure you feel comfortable asking questions of your medical provider. They are a friendly, familiar face if the birth environment feels overwhelming and foreign to you.
Additionally, they'll take care of logistics and provide support to your partner. They'll allow your loved ones to be there for you emotionally 100 percent.
Doulas can help to reduce the stress that birth partners feel about trying to remember everything they learned in a childbirth class, the anxiety that something has gone wrong or the feeling that they can never leave to use the bathroom or take a nap.
Often, birth partners appreciate doulas more than the birthing woman!
After Baby is Born:
After you have birthed your baby, it sometimes feels like the show is over. All the health providers shift their attention — rightfully so, in many ways! — to the infant.
A doula will stay with you at this point, making sure your needs are still being met, and allowing a loved one to focus on the baby. Your doula will stay with you after delivery, usually at least until you are cleaned up, comfortable again, and ready to just spend time bonding with your child.
If you had a C-section, your doula will likely wait in the recovery room for you. Doulas are usually well-versed in breastfeeding and sometimes certified in lactation consulting. They can offer suggestions or guidance for new parents and newborns who have never tried to nurse before.
Think that after the big day, your relationship with your doula is over? Think again!
Most doulas will come visit you and your new family at home after you have settled into your new lives and make sure you are on the road to full recovery.
As mentioned earlier, some doulas are certified in lactation consulting. Almost all have some experience in newborn care.
Many doulas have photographic skills and can provide you with picture documentation of your birth and newborn's first hours. Some doulas offer a written re-cap of the experience — their perspective of your baby's birth story.
Some doulas specialize in postpartum care, and offer specific services for families who are interested in some extra support — often overnight.
Just like she did during pregnancy, your doula will make sure you are connected to any other specialists/professionals that might support you during this emotionally draining, exhausting, surreal, wonderful, terrifying postpartum time.
Many doulas will bring you food — because what new parent has time to cook healthy meals!?
Perhaps most importantly, they will check in with you to see how you are doing emotionally. They will process your birth with you, allowing you to recount the experience, ask questions or express joy, frustration, etc.
Although it's easy to forget during pregnancy, the purpose of labor and delivery is NOT giving birth. It is becoming a parent. An even messier, less predictable, terrifying, rewarding, life-long adventure! Your doula will walk through this with you, as well.
We are there for you as you progress through the entire reproductive experience, doing whatever we can to ease your way into this momentous life cycle event.
So, taking all of this into consideration ... If you don't doula yet — will you?
Reviewed March 10, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith