What do Birth Doulas actually do?

Have you heard about birth doulas but are still not really sure what they do? No worries my new friend, this blog will help you become an expert on what a birth doula really is.
Mom and birth doula

Picture this, a newly pregnant woman joins  an Omaha area moms’ Facebook group.  She notices the words birth doula repeatedly and that many members have used one.  She reads about their experiences through their shared birth stories then asks if it is something she should look into for her upcoming birth; the heavy response is YES! “Okay??” she thinks, “but why?  What is a birth doula? What does a birth doula, actually do? How do I know if I should have one or not? What about my husband or mom, aren’t they enough?”

My new friend if you are reading this and she sounds like you, stayed tuned.  Here are the answers to those questions.

What is a birth doula?

In short, a birth doula is professionally trained to support a family through pregnancy, childbirth, and immediate postpartum (The first 1-2 hours of your new baby’s life)

What does a birth doula do?

Birth doulas provide informational, emotional and physical support for the whole family through pregnancy, birth and immediate postpartum.  You and your birth partner will have so many decisions to make.  A thousand questions with a thousand opinions offered.  A birth doula can help you find evidence based information and weed through the tidal wave of opinions to narrow your options, allowing you to make the best choices for your family.  Your doula has listening ears and an open heart to help you process the many feelings that you may experience.  You can laugh, cry or vent without judgment with your doula.  Your birth doula has suggestions for the common discomforts of pregnancy, is an encyclopedia of suggestions for relaxation and comfort while giving birth;  she is a birth expert.  Her  knowledge of the pregnant body and the birthing process helps you and your birth partner  to understand what’s happening, why it’s happening and how best to work  through the process.  She’s strong as an ox, gentle as a lamb, patient as a saint and is completely devoted to helping you have the birth experience you dream of.   You struggle to cope, she helps you find focus, patterns breath, helps you find a comfort ritual for each wave of pressure.  She surrounds you with comfort and helps you find peace in your vulnerability and draws out strengths you never knew you had.  She is your birth champion.

Birth doulas are not just for the pregnant woman.  Birth doulas provide confidence, trust, reassurance and tasks for birth partners.  Most dads want to be helpful and to support their partner in birth.  They want to be her rock but often, they just don’t feel confident that they will know what will be most helpful in the moment.  Typical things that comfort and calm often don’t work with labor. For instance, in general women love massages and back rubs, it’s something a man does to care for and love on his partner. However, that light caressing and gentle rubbing of her back or shoulders can be felt as additional stimulation in an already over stimulated  body and is more likely to drive her crazy than comfort her.  It is not unusual for moms to respond to such actions with a… “stop touching me!”. “Oh crap”, partners think, “I’ve upset her” They tend to get nervous to try anything else and so they either withdraw and sit quietly  or ask what they can do that will help…. Unfortunately, she likely won’t know. Her mind is fully focused on giving birth and she literally can’t tell you if she wants a drink of water or not in the thick of it. ENTER YOUR BIRTH DOULA – She’s a calm presence in the room that knows birth like the back of her hand, she anticipates your needs before  you need them and gives direction to your partner’s desire to help.  Doulas offer comforting techniques and set a tone and pace for you and your partner to work together in.  They offer gentle correction when an attempt to help isn’t quite right.  They teach and guide him in being the best birth partner he can be.  Your birth doula will read the situation and the comfort level of each Dad and give tasks that they can confidently do to care for, love on and be very helpful to their partner. Mom will be happy, Dad will feel confident and useful and your birth doula will be overjoyed watching these wonderful moments of love and oxytocin play out throughout this birth experience. He knows you best and your doula knows birth best, together they are just what you need.  Birth doulas and Dads are the Dream Team for caring labor support.

 How do I know if I should have a birth doula or not?

Birth doulas are for families who desire to feel supported, heard, calm, confident, educated and remain comfortable. Are you wanting a birth experience where you feel supported by your partner? A birth  supported by someone that is 100% in your corner? A birth experience where you feel calm and at peace with giving birth? Do you desire to feel listened to and completely heard? Have information explained to you in a way you really understand? Are you maybe a little or a lot anxious/nervous for birth and deeply desire to feel safer and more confident? Do you want to know your options available so you can make the best decision for your family and feel good about choosing what’s best for you?If so, a birth doula is for you! Unmedicated, epidural, cesarean, induced labor or spontaneous labor… Your birth doulas supports them all. She doesn’t  have an opinion on what YOUR birth should look like, she respects your choices. She is there to help you feel how you desire to feel in whatever decisions you make for your birth and your baby. Your birth doula is an unbiased support person, she knows that her personal choices or opinions are not relevant and will NEVER impose them on your birth experience.  She’s not there for an oxytocin “birth high”, she’s there to help you find yours.

Can my mom, sister, friend be my doula?

Since a doula is a non-biased/judgement free professionally trained support person that has no emotional tie to your family, a family member or friend wouldn’t be the ideal choice for that role. A doula is well trained in all things birth and postpartum, this is her career.  Could your family and friends care for you during your birth? Of course! Can they be a comfort to you? Certainly.  But can they provide experienced, knowledgeable and agenda free support? Probably not.  A family member’s view is limited to their own  birth experience and those experiences that have been shared with them. What worked for them may not work for you.  A doula’s training and extensive experience gives her a broad and objective view.  Her in depth understanding of the pregnant body and the birthing process allows her to easily guide you and your birth partner through each phase of birthing your baby and to make suggestions for comfort, relaxation, progress, and positioning as well as recognizing both of your emotional needs.  If you need someone to help you find strength, she can draw it out.  When you are feeling vulnerable, she finds your confidence.  Her diverse experience, lack of bias and objective view are much different than your best friend holding your hand and telling you how good you are doing. Can you have both?  Certainly! You can have the love and support of your family member/friend  and a well-trained, experienced, and knowledgeable doula in your birth room. Anyone you desire to be with you during your labor and birth will be on Team Mom and will blend beautifully and allow you to feel the most supported as possible. Its about what you need, want and envision for your birth.

Is adding a professionally trained doula to your birth team right for you?

Find out for yourself.  Most doulas offer a free meet and greet where you can ask them questions and see if they are right for you and your desired birth. If you are on the fence, meet some doulas and see how you feel.  You should leave a doula meet and greet with a clear understanding of the services offered and how that benefits you.  You should have a feeling of relief, a sense of peace, strength and confidence.  If you are in the Omaha, NE metro area; Omaha Birth & Babies would love to meet  you to discuss your desires for  birth and how we can help you achieve them.

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