21 Ways a Doula Can Impact Your Birth
Whether it’s natural, epidural, or cesarean, birth doesn’t just “happen”. It’s an experience, a journey, and a process that takes the mother, baby and birth team, working together in unison to have the safe, surreal, and positive birth experience that your looking for.
But between the OB/midwife, nurses, birth partners, family, etc... it’s hard to think there is any space left for someone else in that birthing room. However, I assure you, there is.
And if you’re missing a doula, you’re missing an important part of your birth team.
On the outside looking in, it may seem unclear what a birth doula truly does. With the doctor/midwife and nurses monitoring you, what could a birth doula do that would possibly add any value?
I remember thinking that same thing when I was introduced to the idea of a doula. I didn’t understand how they would fit into the already busy existing system. When I interviewed the doula that ended up attending my birth. I was like, “Hmmm so you support me, huh? Well that’s nice, so like how?” I just couldn’t visualize it! What could a doula could possibly do for me?
I understood very little about the actual roles and functions of a birth doula, but when I saw the statistics on how many women have better birth outcomes when they had a doula present, I knew I needed one for me. And goodness, I was right... I NEEDED one.
And now that I’m on the other side, working as a doula, so I want to do my best and explain what it actually is that we do...
Let’s start here…
The definition of a birth doula:
“Someone who provides physical, emotional, and informational support to a pregnant woman during pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum period.”
Sounds super vague, right? I knew you’d say that!
But if you break it down, you may see from the definition above that my job falls under 3 main categories: physical, emotional, and informational support.
Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN of Evidence-Based Birth wrote an excellent, in-depth article on the role of a birth doula. I reference a lot information from her article on this post, but if you’d like to read the full version (and I suggest you do), you can read it here.
According to EBB, physical support of a doula provides a “birthing person with a sense of control, comfort, and confidence.”
Every mama needs physical support regardless of the birthing path their baby takes them on. We leave the clinical stuff up to the medical professionals and focus on the mama’s most basic needs that often get overlooked.
Doula’s help you feel more comfortable during birth through:
Creating the right environment (dimming lights, playing music, aromatherapy)
Assisting mom with position changes
Helping get to and from bathroom
Assist with breastfeeding positioning
Emotional (psychological, spiritual)
In today’s society, there is a lot of fear surrounding birth. Think about the last movie/TV show you saw featuring someone giving birth and I’m certain there was some fear/panic moment of the mother’s water breaking in the grocery store or yelling at a driver to get to the hospital on time or screaming at their birth partner for “doing this to them”.
You see that scene in the media and hear about unsettling birth stories far too often. You might even be working with a provider that sees everything that could go wrong before mentioning anything that can go right. Our culture has subliminally told women that they can’t trust their bodies and don’t know how to birth, so it’s no wonder we are so fearful!
Women need all the emotional support they can get to combat the negativity that surrounds birth in our communities.
Doulas can provide emotional support by:
Being a continuous presence
Providing the mother (and birth partner) with reassurance
Encouraging words, positive affirmations
Helping the mother see their situation in a more positive light
Listens to the birthing person with empathy
Shares in the joys and excitement of the birth experience
Comforts by praying for the family (if requested)
Discusses fears/concerns about childbirth
I really do believe that knowledge is power, especially when it comes to pregnancy and birth. Knowledge helps quite fears and makes us feel confident in our decision making. And your doula will put evidence-based information at your fingertips that will help you feel equipped with the knowledge to make safe choices for you and your baby.
Doula’s can help you feel more confident about birth by:
Providing evidence-based information and education on topics such as: stages of labor, pain relief, positions for labor/birth
Helping you identify your birth preferences
Explaining medical procedures before they are performed
Helping birth partner understand what is happening during labor
Suggesting helpful tips during labor such as positioning, movement, relaxation and breathing techniques
Lastly, I know that this doesn’t fall under the 3 categories I mentioned above and that’s because advocacy is something some (not all) birth doula’s provide. Even though I do not perform any clinical tasks when I am working as a private professional doula, I do find that my background as a nurse keeps me passionate about advocating for my clients as I would do for my patients.
Evidence-Based Birth says it best…(again)
“Advocacy is supporting the birthing person in their right to make decisions about their own body and baby.”
I want to make sure your needs get met and whether that’s by encouraging you to ask questions to staff members or if that means creating space for you and your birth partner to discuss what should come next on your birthing journey, that’s what I’ll do.
I hope by reading this you can understand how important a doula’s role is during birth and how that having one can create a positive impact on your birth experience.
If you have any questions, please fill out a contact form or message me directly on Facebook or Instagram so we can start chatting.
Stay glowing mama’s,
“Evidence on: Doulas.” Evidence Based Birth®, 12 Aug. 2019, evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/.
Gruber, Kenneth J., et al. “Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes.” The Journal of Perinatal Education, vol. 22, no. 1, 2013, pp. 49–58., doi:10.1891/1058-1243.22.1.49.