What Exactly Is A Doula?
A doula provides personal support services for women and families during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. In labor, the doula provides help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. She (or sometimes he) comforts the woman with touch, hot or cold packs, beverages, warm baths and showers, and other supportive measures. The doula is attuned to the laboring woman and her support team so she is always a step ahead of everyone's needs, desires and questions. She also assists the woman and her partner to become informed of the various options, both before and during labor. Perhaps the most crucial role of the doula is providing continuous emotional reassurance and comfort. A good doula will not make decisions for their clients nor will they project their own values and goals onto the laboring woman.
A postpartum doula provides similar support and education, but is focused on promoting the bond between you and your baby and ensuring your needs are met. This assistance comes in various forms, such as feeding (breast, pump, formula, etc), providing newborn care, cooking, cleaning, household management, sibling support and helping new parents become confident in their new role. Similarly to how a birth doula doesn't replace the role or importance of your partner, a postpartum doula is not a replacement for grandma (or anyone else who is personally invested). We take care of the busy work, provide up to date suggestions or advice if wanted, and focus on the family so everyone gets a chance to bond and spend time doing the real thing they want to do- hold the baby!
Many people can't picture exactly what a doula can really help with in birth and postpartum. Don't worry, you're not alone! Still on the fence about hiring a doula?
15 Questions to Determine if a Doula Would be Beneficial to You During Your Birth or Postpartum Period.
1. Generally your doctor or midwife sees you for approximately 5 minutes every 2-3 hours (or longer!) once you arrive at the hospital. Are you and your support team prepared for this scenario or would you like more consistent and continuous support, often starting in the home?
2. Do you have a support person that knows various coping techniques, helping you manage labor and pushing with an epidural? Do they know how to support the entire labor if you are not seeking an epidural?
3. Do you know how you manage stressful situations? What about your partner or mom/sister/friend?
4. Do you know what to do if your contractions start and stop over the course of hours or days?
5. If your labor is long will someone be able to provide a break for your birth partner/coach to rest/eat so that he/she is able to provide support once baby has arrived?
6. Do you know the appropriate time to go to the hospital depending on your birth plan and labor patterns?
7. Will you have enough energy/wherewithal to remember important details or ask appropriate questions about care?
8. Is your partner/coach comfortable with vomiting, blood, and other bodily fluids and functions? What about in the case of a cesarean?
9. Are you and your support team familiar with 'birth lingo' such as posterior, asynclitic, prodromal, meconium, caput, and more?
10. Do you understand newborn behaviors/common obstacles such as cluster feeding, reversed sleep schedules, or what to do if your baby will only sleep being held?
11. Do you have a plan in place for your partner's return to work?
12. Will you have enough energy to make healthy meals and focus on your healing, especially in the case of a cesarean birth? What about tips to support your mental health?
13. Do you have friends or family that are familiar with breastfeeding, including when to reach out for more help? How about non-judgmental support if you choose to formula feed?
14. Are you familiar with how to make sure your baby is safe in various scenarios? This could cover things such as your car seat location, sleeping arrangements, vaccine schedules/options, baby carriers, etc.
15. Will you feel confident in your changing role from business professional to new parent?
If you have answered no to some or most of these questions, you might consider hiring a doula! This list isn't meant to be overwhelming or to induce fear; it is meant as a tool so you can start planning how to best manage your labor and postpartum so you feel empowered and successful out of the gate. If you know most of these answers and feel well prepared, wonderful! We think everyone could benefit from having expertly trained support, but are happy you are feeling calm, confident and supported during this unique time.