As I’ve immersed myself more and more in the world of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, I’m noticing a LOT of women don’t know what a doula is or why some women hire one. I get a lot of questions about what my job entails, how I got started, what exactly I do for my clients, how to find a doula, etc. Here are a few frequently asked questions for you!
Okay, so what exactly is a Doula?
The shortest and sweetest answer is “a birth support person”… but it’s really a lot more than that. A doula is a non-medical birth professional that provides unbiased, non-judgemental, and evidence based information, physical support, and emotional support before, during, and after childbirth. She is a person trained to know birth inside and out, and is hired to help support you in your journey into motherhood, whether it be your first baby or your 10th.
So, what’s the difference between that and a Midwife?
BIG difference, similar line of work. A Midwife is a trained, certified, medical professional that provides care to mothers during their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. She handles the medical side of things. Yes, she often will provide physical and emotional support, but her main focus is on the health and wellbeing of mom and baby. A doula provides physical and emotional support. She is with you every step of the way in labor and delivery, and strives to help you have a positive and empowering birth experience. A doula does not do medical tasks. We’ll dive more into what exactly doulas do here shortly….
Who should hire a doula?
Anyone that wants to! Doulas aren’t just for moms delivering at home- we attend births and support moms delivering at home, in birth centers, and in hospital. Doulas aren’t just for moms striving for natural birth. We support moms wanting to squat and catch their own baby, moms that know they want epidurals, and moms planning to have a cesarean section. We support the birth YOU want.
What exactly does a Doula typically do?
I know there is slight variation in the care and support provided from one client to the next and from one doula to the next… but here is a basic rundown of what kind of care and support you can typically expect from a doula..
During Pregnancy, your doula will:
- usually meet with you 1-2 times minimum
- provide evidence based information, as needed, for you to make informed choices
- help you build a birth plan and know your options. (more about building a better birth plan COMING SOON!)
- maybe have a lending library of resources for you to borrow
- talk with you through fears, concerns, excitements
- provide recommendations for comfort measures for end of pregnancy discomforts
- provide community resources to you
- show your partner or other labor support people how they can be involved if desired
- explore comfort measures that could help during labor and delivery
- help you prepare for postpartum healing
- encourage you, help you to trust your body
During labor and delivery, you can likely expect that your doula will:
- help you explore Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, Nothing (BRAIN) with you for truly informed decision making, as needed
- strive to help provide physical relief (ex: massage, counter pressure, positional changes, etc.)
- hold space and be emotionally and physically present for you
- tend to your needs, get you water/ice as needed, help you move or change positions if desired
- encourage you to trust your body and the process
- provide encouraging affirmations if desired, verbally support you
- support your choices without judgement
- make suggestions for position changes, if desired
- help explain the process of what is going on at any given time to you and/or other labor support present
- protect your labor space, help keep unwanted people out of the room, keep the atmosphere as desired (ex: help limit conversation, keep lights low, etc.)
Postpartum, you can expect that your doula will likely:
- stay at least an hour postpartum, often more
- help initiate breastfeeding, help with position of breastfeeding, improve latch if needed, etc.
- tend to your needs- get food/drink, help you find comfortable position to rest and snuggle your new baby
- explain any procedures going on, as needed
- maybe take pictures for you, if requested
- after leaving hospital, she will check in on you and be available for any questions or needs you may have
will likely visit you again postpartum and talk through your birth experience, if you’d like
- Your Doula WILL NOT:
- perform any medical tasks or checks (ex: blood pressure, cervical check, etc.)
- tell you what you should do
- make decisions for you
- speak to medical staff (OB, Midwife, Nurse, etc.) on your behalf
- chit chat during contractions, or talk excessively between contractions (unless mom initiates conversation and has specified she prefers no calm/quiet)
- promote her business to others during your labor and delivery
- talk about herself or her labors (unless specifically asked)
judge your decisions/choices for your birth experience
How do I find a Doula?
There are a lot of avenues to find a doula! First, ask around! You best bet to finding a doula that is not only professional but is good at her job, is to get personal references. Ask friends that have hired a doula, or ask people like yoga instructors, midwives, OBs, massage therapists, chiropractors, etc.. Chances are, someone around you knows a doula or two! You can also check online on the BirthTUBE Doula Directory! Facebook is also another great way to find a doula in your area. You can use the search bar and type “doula in ______” and you’ll likely get a decent start on your search. There are often “Crunchy Mom” or “Natural Birth” Facebook groups for each state or region, and while not everyone hiring a doula fits into those groups, you’re very likely to find doulas there.
How do I know a doula is a good fit for me? What should I ask a potential doula to know if we mesh well?
This is probably the question I get asked most, and it’s completely understandable- you should find a doula that you connect with! Don’t just hire the first doula you come across! Find someone that you really feel comfortable with, and someone you feel carries herself professionally and in a way that best fits your personality. I know some doulas that are upbeat, peppy, and you would legitimately imagine that if they threw up, it’d be sunshine and rainbows. (I envy that level of positivity all of the time!). I also know doulas that are more obviously hippie and holistic- to the point that it makes you want to eat kale chips right then and there. And I know some doulas that are calm, introverted, but so passionate about their work that you can’t help but love everything about the care they provide. FIND A DOULA THAT MESHES WELL WITH YOU!
Here are a few great questions to ask when meeting or talking with a potential doula!
- What is your experience as a doula?
- Are you certified with a particular organization? Why or why not?
- Do you offer any additional services, aside from labor doula support? (breastfeeding support, placenta encapsulation, photography, etc)
- May I look over your contract with you?
- At what point are you officially “on-call” for my labor?
- How many times will we meet or talk before labor?
- How many clients do you schedule each month?
- Do you have a reliable backup doula? In what situation would it be necessary to call her?
- What is your favorite part of being a doula?
- What is your fee and what does it include?
- Have YOU hired a doula for your pregnancy/birth?
Jennifer Riddle, CLD (CBI)
Mother’s Intuition Birth Services