What is a Doula and why you need one? There are many types of doulas. We will focus on the role of a birth doula. A birth doula is like a birth coach. They are trained professionals that help mothers and families identify and actualize their birthing goals by providing informational, emotional, and physical support before, during, and immediately after labor.
Not everyone knows it but there is not just one way to birth. Women have many options regarding how and where they can give birth. Women may choose to have birth at home, at a birthing center, or at a hospital. They may choose to have a midwife, an OB, or a family physician. They may choose to let labor happen naturally or they may choose to be induced. They may choose natural pain management or they may opt for an epidural. There are many options with pros and cons to them all. A doula provides birthing families with evidence-based information to help them make informed decisions regarding their care.
Doulas are trained to be active and empathetic listeners. They have one goal and one goal only which is to help families have the birthing experience they desire. Doulas listen to families and allow them to express their desires, concerns, and fears without judgment. Doulas acknowledge their clients’ feelings as valid and encourage them to lean into their control, be comfortable with advocating for themselves, and be confident in their role in collaborative decision-making. Doulas bring families a sense of calm which has proven positive effects on birthing families and birth outcomes.
Doulas understand the birthing process and are trained to help birthing persons manage their pain naturally. If providing in-person support, doulas assist the laboring person with movements and positioning to facilitate labor, encourage positive thought, coach on breathing through contractions, and use hands-on pain management techniques like counter-pressure, hip squeezes, and belly shifting. If providing virtual support, doulas spend more time educating families before labor and training the birth partner on how to provide physical support along with the doula’s virtual guidance and coaching.
There are many benefits of having a birth doula! You may be aware of this country’s growing black maternity health crisis with black women dying at rates 3-4 times greater than their white counterparts from birth-related complications. These inequities exist because of racism and birthing families being miseducated or uneducated on the birthing process. Having a trained advocate with you who is knowledgeable about birth and what it often looks like compared to what it should and could look like, could help save your life. As with any decision, take time to interview doulas to find someone you connect with and would feel comfortable having by your side (in-person or virtually) during your most sacred and vulnerable time.
If you’re currently pregnant or planning to get pregnant, check out our blog “Pregnant During A Pandemic” for words of encouragement from other families who have birthed during COVID.
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