Provider Member, N.E.W. Birth Options PMA

Doula FAQ

You may be thinking, “My husband, mother, sister, friend are very supportive. What would a doula provide that they can't?”

It is not the role of a doula to replace the intended labor partner. In fact, a doula usually enhances the participation of other labor supporters. Studies have shown that fathers and others actually participate more actively during labor with a doula present than without one.

Many partners feel exclusion during labor because they are not sure what to do, and nothing can be more frustrating than a feeling of helplessness when you see someone working hard through their labor and you don't know what to do. Asking a partner to remember everything they learned in childbirth classes at a time when emotions run high can be overwhelming. A doula can help to coach partners into their roles as supporters.

Labor is hard work and may take a long time. Supporters in a birth will often need a break to catch their breath, get a drink, or collect themselves. Doulas are there to provide continued support to the mother during those times. Doulas will encourage partners to become involved with comfort measures, massage, pressure, etc, to their level of desire.

Now-a-days, partners desire a more active approach to the actual birth and focusing on the baby. A doula can provide support to the mom while her partner helps catch or tend to the baby. This gives the partner a sense of confidence that mom is not being abandoned, but cared for with great dedication.

The presence of a doula allows partners to truly enjoy their involvement in the birth, making it both a memorable and enriching experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Or perhaps you are thinking, “I'm planning a homebirth. Isn't my midwife my doula?”

Midwives are very special individuals when it comes to women's health, and they are wonderful supporters to families before, during and after the birth, but they have a very different role than a doula does at a birth. Midwives are supportive in every sense of the word during labor, but they also have very unique responsibilities. They are responsible for monitoring all aspects of labor and the baby and thus are extremely busy.

Although their focus is to the mother and their heart is poured out into the labor and birth, a doula does not have the responsibilities that a midwife does. A doula can provide the uninterrupted massage, pressure, communication, and focus necessary to the mother's success. She can focus on the mother when a midwife needs to draw her attention elsewhere. A doula doesn't need to stop massaging to check the baby's heart rate or palpate to feel for the baby's position. A doula can refill your drink or fetch a snack when necessary without interrupting the care to the baby. A doula will usually arrive during the early stages of labor and stay with you where a midwife may have other responsibilities at that time. During an unexpected transport a doula does not need to fill out paperwork or spend time with the emergency personnel, and can thus focus every bit of her attention on the mother's need for emotional and physical support. And a midwife may appreciate having an extra trained support professional at the birth knowing that she can focus all of her attention to her work.

Still others may say, “I'm planning a medicated birth, (or) c-section. What could a doula do for my birth?”

It is the role of a doula to help you have a pleasant and memorable birth, not to choose your birth for you. A professional doula has had a substantial amount of education about the birth process and will be able to provide you with valuable information regarding birth options, but it is the role of each individual to choose the type of birth that is best for them. For women who know that they want a medicated birth, a doula can still provide an abundance of emotional support and assistance with comfort during both labor and the administration of medications. Often pain medications leave some amount of discomfort to contend with. Doulas help to prepare moms to deal with the possible side effects of the medications that they have chosen and the effects that they may see in their baby in the coming hours and days following birth.

For a mother facing a cesarean, a doula provides constant encouragement and support. Whether a c-section is planned or unexpected, mom may be left with feelings of frustration, loneliness and disappointment. A doula present at a cesarean can explain the procedure, continue emotional support, and encourage and uplift the mom during this time. She can, again, be fully vested in mom while the partner tends to the baby's immediate needs.

Often following a c-section a baby and mother will have bonding and breastfeeding issues. These hurdles take their toll on both mother and baby and a doula can provide the support and encouragement necessary during this time. A doula can also provide suggestions and references to additional support professionals that can help with these concerns.

Is a doula necessary at every birth?

Many, many births have taken place without the assistance of a doula, but still many others have had that professional support present. A doula may not be necessary, per se, in every situation, but the presence of a doula has shown to be very beneficial, no matter where the birth occurs or what transpires during the labor and birth process.
But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
- Isaiah 43:1
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