Maybe you’ve seen the funny yet ridiculous Duracell commercial mentioning a doula-recommended, dolphin-assisted water birth. Maybe you’ve seen the Ricki Lake documentary The Business of Being Born. Or maybe you’ve never heard the word doula ever before. My mission today is to explain the how and why of doulas- basically how a doula can help you during pregnancy and birth, and why so many women swear by them.
Pregnancy and birth is often uncharted territory for expectant parents, and can be a time of excitement, but also of uncertainty. A doula is somewhat of a professional pregnancy and birth guide, providing reliable information and continuous support before, during and after your birth.
When expectant parents hire their doula varies widely. Some start reaching out to potential doulas as soon as they find out they are expecting, and others wait well into their third trimester. I personally recommend finding a doula early on, so that you can begin benefitting from their services immediately. Most doulas provide prenatal appointments to discuss birth options and preferences, as well as phone/text/email support for all those random questions that pop up during pregnancy.
The support of a doula during a birth can also vary greatly, as each birthing mother is unique and doulas each have their own style; however, some defining aspects of doula support are that it is skilled, continuous support. A doula draws from her training, knowledge and experience to provide positioning ideas, comfort techniques, encouragement and reassurance for you, your partner and family. She joins you as soon as you feel you’d like her support, and doesn’t leave until your baby is in your arms.
Not only does doula support help to improve the birth experience, but there is compelling evidence suggesting that women who use doulas to support their birth are statistically more likely to achieve better outcomes as well. Per a 2017 Cochrane review published by Bohren et al., doula supported women experienced a significant decrease in the use of pain medications, Pitocin, risk of C-section, risk of newborn being admitted to a special care nursery, and dissatisfaction with their birth experience.
That’s not to say that women who choose to use pain medication or need Pitocin or a C-section can’t benefit from a doula. Doulas support all types of birth, will support you in your choices, and can offer ideas to enhance your experience no matter how it unfolds.
Many doulas include some postpartum support as part of their package as well. Some, like myself, are also lactation counselors, and can provide assistance with breastfeeding, both immediately postpartum and in the early weeks and months following. Some doulas specialize in postpartum support and infant care, and even offer overnight support in the home.
I think one of the dads I worked with summed up my role pretty well, and it is still one of my favorite compliments: “Angie was a mix between a comforting friend and an expert (but not one of those annoying in your face know-it-alls)!"
If you think a doula could be beneficial for you, I highly recommend you reach out to a few! Most offer free consultations, and would be happy to answer all of your questions. For full descriptions of my services, more testimonials and contact info for me, please visit my website: www.aligndoula.com.
Written by Angie Traska of Align Doula Services in Madison, providing intuitive, attentive doula support that aligns with you.
Photo credit to Nicole Krueger Photography