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4 Ways a Doula Can Support Your Birth!

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

The Webster Dictionary defines a doula as, "a woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth". In simple terms, a doula is a nurturer much like a mother to the woman giving birth. Let's dive more into what that means! Educational support. When I had my first daughter, I wasn't very educated about childbirth. I thought I would feel contractions, be "strong" enough to deny the epidural, and have the doctors and nurses guide me through the whole process. I expected breastfeeding to be easy. I didn't even consider how intense postpartum can be. I didn't know what to expect in the last weeks of pregnancy and it felt like everything caught me off, guard. I had Braxton Hicks for several weeks but never knew when the right time to go to the hospital was. I lost my mucus plug and it freaked me out because I had no clue what it was. At my 37-week prenatal, my OB said I was 2cm dilated but failed to explain you can be like that for weeks, so I thought I was going into labor at any moment (I was induced 4 weeks later). I was riddled with anxiety because I had so many questions and no one to answer them. I always felt rushed at my OB appointments and the questions I had throughout the weeks were ones I needed an answer to at the moment, not weeks later at my appointment. I didn't know a lick about the medicine they gave me for my *unnecessary* induction. I didn't know about the risks (which I still deal with today) of the epidural. I didn't know breaking the waters in early labor was going to make my contractions more intense resulting in me getting the epidural. I didn't know the benefits of delayed cord clamping. I didn't know anything that I thought I did. I was giving consent, but I was not giving informed consent. I say all this because I felt so overwhelmed and out of control. Not something you should ever feel, especially when it's about your body and your baby. Whether it's your first or tenth baby, informed consent is so important. I can't tell you how many prenatal visits I have with clients that start with them expressing their fears of the "what ifs" or the "pain" of childbirth but by the end of our visit, these women have completely changed. They are prepared, excited, and beyond ready to meet their baby! I don't say this to "toot my horn" as a doula, I say this because knowledge is power. When we are properly informed, we can give informed consent. This is where a doula is so helpful. They are trained birth professionals. They provide you with evidence-based information to equip you to make the right decision for you and your family. Then, once you made that decision, they support you in it and help you execute it. A doula goes to the birthing location whether that be in the hospital, birth center, or home, and is with the birthing family every step, providing information and advice along the way.

Emotional support. I think it's obvious to everyone that pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is a very emotional time for families. There are a lot of changes and heightened emotions that come with parenthood, even before the baby is born. I've heard people say that they won't benefit from a doula because they have a supportive partner. Let me start by saying, a supportive partner is so important!! but they are going through a big transformation and even if they aren't expressing it, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum can be very overwhelming for them too. It might not be happening to their body, but it can be a helpless feeling watching someone you love go through such an experience if they aren't properly prepared for it. Birth can be loud and chaotic at times, and it is so valuable to have a birth professional be able to walk both the birther and their partner through the entire process. Making sure they feel comfortable with everything happening around them. A doula and partner work together to create the best environment for the mother. Physical support. Hip squeezes. Pressure points. Counter pressure. Water therapy. Massaging. Homeopathic medicine. Position changes. There are so many ways to support women physically in childbirth that aren't practiced in most births. The majority of L&D nurses are great, but they are overworked and are juggling multiple moms at once. They cannot provide the continuous physical support needed and moms are suffering because of it. Evidence shows that continuous physical labor support results in a 10% decrease in pain medication. I have firsthand experience with this. For my first birth, I had no doula, and I got an epidural. My second, I hired a doula and birthed all natural! The difference is huge. I see physical support from a doula as a secret superpower. You don't know how beneficial it is until you experience it in action. Advocacy. Advocacy is defined as, "One that argues for a cause; a supporter or defender". This can be a grey line for some people, and so I love how Evidence-Based Birth redefines advocacy. "Advocacy is defined as supporting the birthing person in their right to make decisions about their own body and baby." They go on to explain, "As far as advocacy goes, most doulas will not speak on your behalf. However, doulas should support you in your right to make decisions about your body and your baby. They will also use advocacy techniques such as encouraging you to ask questions and speak up for what you want. Doulas can also enhance communication between parents and providers." (Dekker) There you go! I hope that explains what a doula is and how they can be a beneficial member of a birth team!



Citations:

  1. Dekker, Rebecca. "Evidence on: Doulas." www.Evidencebasedbirth.com, 4 May 2019, evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/. Accessed 4 Jan. 2023.

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