(Read to the end to hear my daughters funny birth story)
Someone brought to my attention that my last post about doulas didn’t explain exactly why doulas are beneficial and what exactly they do. So I wanted to write another post explaining the benefits of having a doula.
Doulas are companions trained to support birthing women and their partners. There are birth doulas, postpartum doulas, and bereavement doulas. In this post, I am going to focus on birth doulas. A birth doulas main role is to provide continuous support during labor. Doulas provide 4 pillars of support including, physical, emotional, informational and advocacy.
Physical support helps the birth person to feel comfortable, supported and in control. Physical support includes comforting touch through massage, acupressure, and rebozo techniques, applying warm or cold compresses, preparing hydrotherapy such as tub or shower, creating a comfortable environment, and providing hydration and nourishment for the birthing person.
Emotional support is a very important pillar. Doulas provide emotional support to the birth person and partner through continuous presence, encouragement, praise, positive affirmations, accepting and advocating for birth person wishes, helping birth person and partner work through fears and doubt.
Informational support is a key factor for many birthing couples. Many couples need continuous informational guidance, such as guidance on specific comfort measures, breathing techniques, evidence-based information on different options throughout preganancy and childbirth, explanation of medical procedures before they are performed, and helping partners understand what is going on with the birthing person.
Advocacy is a pillar that some doulas may be a bit on the fence about. Some doulas state that they will advocate for their clients and some prefer to provide informational support to their clients and encourage and empower birth persons and partners to advocate for themselves. I personally as a nurse and doula, try to help my clients advocate for themselves, but I will step in if I feel there is something that may cause more harm and my clients cant speak up for themselves. Rebecca Dekker from Evidence Based Birth defined advocacy in respect to doulas best “Advocacy is defined as supporting the birthing person in their right to make decisions about their own body and baby”.
Doulas are not medical professionals and they do have some limitations.
•they don’t perform medical procedures such as vaginal exam or heart tones
•they don’t diagnose or give medical advice
•They don’t pressure clients into making decisions based on personal preference
•They don’t overtake the role of partner
•They don’t catch the baby
Research has shown that doulas can make a major difference. Research has shown support of a doula can decrease cesarean rate, increase the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal birth, decrease the use of pain medications, shorten labor, and decrease the risk of a low five-minute Apgar score, and best of all increase birthing person satisfaction with there birth experience.
Some would ask “isn’t that what the nurse does, or the partner does”? As I mentioned in my last post, nurses are not able to provide continuous support, due to staffing, and many are not trained in hands-on comfort measures. As far as partners go, they are so important, and many of them are wonderful supporters. But many times I have seen partners fold under the pressure, and they don’t know what to say or do to provide comfort and support for their partner, no matter how much they prepared. They are to close and struggle with seeing their loved one in pain. I have a great example of this with my own family experience. My youngest daughter asked me to be her doula, I was so excited, I couldn’t wait. Her birth was going along smooth, she stalled a bit and we discussed breaking her bag of waters, and she decided to go with it. Within 15 minutes her pain level picked up immensely. As I was coaching her and trying to help with comfort measures, she looked me in the eyes and called me “MOMMY”, I broke I looked her right back in the eyes and the nurse and mother came out of me and I said, “you can have an epidural you are not a failure if you get an epidural”. I was to close to her, as a nurse, I knew that an epidural would take away her pain and I could fix it for her.
I would love to hear some of your birth experiences with or without a doula, and what you think was good or bad with or without.
Thank you all for reading. God bless everyone through this pandemic we are going through right now. If you are pregnant this is an even more stressful time for you. If you would like to talk to someone please feel free to message me. Melissawilliams@birthbold.com