If you ever have any REAL doubt as to what the actual ROLE of a doula is, then here is the best explanation I have seen so far! Go April!
For those who still view doula support as something mysterious and strange (do they say incantations? strike up fist-fights with hospital staff? sprinkle a magic potion over laboring women?), the reality of just what doulas do can seem quite unclear.
But for the most part, what doulas do is not all that mysterious and strange. And what a doula does varies from each individual pregnancy and birth to the next. What’s more, a doula’s work is often not limited to labor itself but generally extends from pregnancy to the postpartum period.
What does this work look like?
Doulas often schedule one to four prenatal visits with their clients, both to get to know them and their desires for their births and to help their them prepare for their births. During these meetings, doulas might:
- help their clients prepare a birth plan or birth preference list
- refer their clients to community resources, such as chiropractors, massage therapists, and pediatricians
- offer a safe space for their clients to discuss past birth experiences
- attend a prenatal OB/GYN or midwife appointment with their clients
- prepare handouts, books, or website referrals that address their clients’ particular needs or circumstances
- help their clients to prepare for both their “ideal” birth and any unexpected circumstances (such as breech position, induction, long labor, cesarean section, etc.) that may arise before or during labor
- discuss and work through emotional preparation for birth and parenthood
Because each birth is different, a doula’s work inevitably varies from birth to birth. Among the varied and unique births they attend, doulas might:
- help to reassure their clients and their support team about the normalcy of their labors
- foster communication between their clients and the hospital staff when labor strays from the norm (or even when it is a normal, “text book” labor)
- offer massage, counterpressure, and other types of touch techniques to help their clients cope with the intensity of labor
- use acupressure, aromatherapy, rebozo work, and/or guided relaxation to help comfort their clients
- suggest position changes to encourage fetal rotation and descent, to enhance labor progress, and/or to provide comfort
- work to maintain a calm and peaceful atmosphere for the laboring woman
- create emotionally safe spaces for their clients–for like any mammals, such spaces are all but necessary for good labor progress
A doula’s work is not done after their clients birth their babies. The vast majority of birth doulas offer some postpartum support, both immediately after the baby is born in the weeks following the birth. Doulas can offer this postpartum support by:
- guiding their clients during early breastfeeding
- helping the new family to get “settled in” after the birth
- making referrals to community resources (such as lactation consultants, pediatricians, parenting support groups, and postpartum doulas) where appropriate
- discussing common concerns about postpartum healing and baby care
- helping their clients process their birth experiences
- talking about ways to be mindful of and respond to postpartum mood disorders
Thus, rather than being strange or mysterious, doula support valuable, unique, and fairly “normal” work–and work that has consistently shown to have “clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants“!
In what other ways did your doula help you prenatally, during labor, and after your baby was born? What other types of support do you incorporate into your own doula work?
This post is a part of my “Different Types of Doula Support” series honoring International Doula Month. I’m also giving away a copy of YOUR CHOICE of a fabulous birth book in honor of International Doula Month. Please see my original postin this series to find out how you can win!