You may have a doctor or even a midwife, so why would you need a doula? Perhaps you’re a first-time mom, you don’t have a wholesome support structure around you, or maybe you’re nervous about your labor and delivery process.
If I am completely honest, I didn’t know what a doula was until I was pregnant with my first child and frantically looking for female support. I live in an area with almost entirely male OB-GYNs to choose from. As a Muslim, this was terrifying for me, so I started looking for alternative options. I wanted to find the right female support group during one of the most vulnerable moments of my life.
Historically, women have always been a support structure during labor and delivery, and I didn’t want to deviate from a process that has been tried and tested.
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This post is all about why you need a doula during your labor and delivery.
Here is what I’ll discuss in this post:
- What is a Doula?
- Difference between doulas and midwives
- 6 reasons why it is worth the investment to hire a doula for your birth
- The bottom line
- How to find a Doula in your area
What is a Doula anyway?
The word doula is Greek for “woman’s servant.” A doula provides birth and postpartum support to new and experienced families as they transition from pregnancy to childbirth.
The Difference Between a Doula and a Midwife
A Doula provides parents with emotional support and truly advocates for the expectant mother during the labor and delivery process. A relationship between a Doula and expecting parents is established long before the expected baby’s due date. A Doula does not need to be certified, but this is usually preferred, and a Doula cannot provide any medical advice, medical intervention, or deliver a baby. They are genuinely there to serve you – the expectant mother.
A midwife is a medical professional who plays a vital role during the birthing process. A midwife can administer gynecological exams, provide prenatal care, give necessary drugs for labor, deliver a baby vaginally, stitch tears, etc. They typically have a Bachelor’s degree and graduate school or at least specialized training. Depending on if you have a traditional midwife or a medical midwife, they may not always be present with you in your laboring room
6 Reasons Why a Doula is Worth the Investment (Even if You Have an OB-GYN or Midwife):
1. Doulas are there for YOU!
It is so reassuring to know that you have the right support structure to help you navigate one of the most challenging yet beautiful experiences – childbirth.
A doula will get to know you and your partner before your expected due date. She will go over your desired birth plan and understand you as a person. This is especially helpful if you are trying to follow through with an unmedicated birth or have religious or cultural sensitivities and want those heard and respected.
The doula cannot give you medical advice, but they will hear your wants and desires and guide you through your birthing process as you transition between the various stages of labor to childbirth.
2. Doulas guide you through your pregnancy.
The doula will be your confidant, support guide, and coach. Here is what you can expect from your doula:
- She will establish a relationship with you and your partner. She will understand YOUR birthing philosophy and cater her expertise to help you achieve the birth you want, whether medicated or not.
- Your doula will request to attend at least one prenatal visit with you. This ensures that you, your midwife/OB-GYN, and your doula are all on the same page to avoid miscommunication when you go into labor. This prenatal visit is likely to discuss your birth plan and the options available to you during your labor process. This may be when you express your desire to stay as modest as possible and discuss any pain management expectations.
- In addition to the prenatal visits and personal connection, your doula will provide you with evidence-based information throughout your pregnancy. What to expect in each trimester, what to avoid doing or eating, how to exercise, what to eat to stay energized, etc. She will guide you through your pregnancy and answer any questions you might have. She will be a phone call or text message away. This is especially useful when it’s your first pregnancy. So many different things are happening to your body, and Google can become a scary place. Your doula will quickly crush any myths with her expertise, provide reassurance, and direct you to a medical professional if required.
- Your doula will be on standby for your call, usually two weeks before or after your due date. She will help you labor at home for as long as possible or as requested. You can expect your doula to help you utilize different positions to alleviate pain, give you a massage, count your contractions, go on a walk, etc. She helps prepare you for what’s about to come—the second phase of labor.
- After arriving at the hospital (or staying home for a homebirth), your doula will continue to serve you. At this stage, you may be using different approaches such as birthing balls, peanuts, walking, birthing tub, massages, or breathing exercises. The options are endless and dependent on your circumstances and state of mind.
- Should your baby be in an unfavorable birthing position, or your labor is not advancing, your doula knows different tricks to help you get back on track.
- This is the crux of the doula’s expertise, and she will genuinely align herself with you to help you achieve the birthing experience you want. She will provide encouragement and informational support. While a doula cannot speak for you, she will help you find your voice if there is any significant deviation from your birth plan.
- When your baby is delivered, whether it be vaginal or through a c-section, your doula will stay with you for at least two more hours. She will help you achieve skin-to-skin almost immediately after delivery and wait until the baby has latched for nursing. As first-time moms, we often don’t know what this is supposed to look like. The doula ensures you’re doing it right the first time so you don’t run into any issues down the road.
The entire labor and delivery process can take several hours and maybe even longer than 24 hours (mine certainly did). Your doula won’t leave your side; she is committed to following through with your labor and delivery process right from the beginning, and she doesn’t switch shifts or take breaks. This is one of the best and most unique factors of having a doula – she’s consistent.
3. Doulas support your nurse, midwife, and doctor.
Your doula is a big help to your nurses, midwives, and doctors. Because the doula is in your labor room with you and helping you through your labor process, this frees up nurses to focus on other things such as charting and preparing for the eventual delivery. Your doula will even manage the small things like grabbing a cup of cold water instead of calling in the nurses. These small tasks add up!
4. Doulas help your partner play an active role in your labor & delivery.
Doulas are there to serve you, and that also means that they help your designated partner play an active role in your labor. They will have your partner execute some pain relief exercises with you, allowing a bond between both parents as they transition through the different stages of pain. This allows the soon-to-be dad to feel included and helpful in the birthing process. Often, men don’t know how they can help, and watching their partner in such pain is a complicated process on its own. A doula helps with this. She guides the dad to be active and involved so he has a purpose and a meaningful role in the overall process.
5. Doulas can help prevent or reduce birth risks.
Evidence shows that women who receive continuous support during their labor are more likely to give childbirth vaginally, without forceps, ventouse, or cesarean, and babies are less likely to have a low APGAR score during the five-minute mark after birth. There has been no evidence of any adverse effects from continuous support throughout your labor and delivery.
6. Doulas provide postpartum support.
Some doulas may be certified to provide postpartum support to the new family. The doula will provide guidance in areas such as infant feeding (breastfeeding or formula), emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, how to soothe and swaddle your newborn, and how to manage as new parents to establish a new “normal.”
Believe it or not, a postpartum doula might even help you with small tasks around the house, like making a small meal and even helping older children learn to interact with the new baby. They may even spend time with the older child(ren) so you can spend one-on-one time with your new baby.
The Bottom Line
Until the nineteenth century, women used to deliver babies in their homes with other women: nurses, midwives, or even female family members. Men were not typically present with the expecting mother.
Fast-forward to the twenty-first century, and a lot has changed. Doctors are more involved in the labor and delivery process and partners play a crucial role as well. However, midwives and doulas still exist because there is value in their presence, support, and guidance.
How Can You Find a Doula in Your Area?
Ask your healthcare provider when you start your prenatal visits. The midwife or doctor will usually have a list of recommended doulas. That’s the best place to start.
If that isn’t an option, there is an online database where you can search nearby doulas. If you go this route, I recommend you interview a few doulas to find one that you connect with best:
By now, you should be getting excited about doulas and getting ready to find one for your upcoming birth!
This post is all about the benefits of having a doula by your side during your labor and childbirth process.
DONA International. “What Is a Doula.” DONA International, DONA International, 5 Dec. 2018, www.dona.org/what-is-a-doula.
Healthline Editorial Team. “Doula vs. Midwife: What’s the Difference?” Healthline Parenthood, Healthline Media, 4 Mar. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/doula-vs-midwife#doula.
Bohren MA, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C, Fukuzawa RK, and Cuthbert A.“Continuous Support for Women during Childbirth.” Cochrane, The Cochrane Collaboration, 6 July 2017, www.cochrane.org/CD003766/PREG_continuous-support-women-during-childbirth.
O’Neill, Therese. “How to Give Birth (100 Years Ago).” The Week, The Week, 18 Dec. 2013, theweek.com/articles/454290/how-give-birth-100-years-ago.
Blissful Baby Birthing. “What Is A Doula?” Blissful Baby Birthing, Blissful Baby Birthing, 5 Mar. 2019, blissfulbabybirthing.com/what-is-a-doula.