What is a Doula?

You sit laptop in hand ready to surf the web and discover everything you need to know to have the best birth experience. Your hand finds your belly, where new life is beginning to grow. You imagine 10 tiny fingers, 10 tiny toes, but who’s nose will this baby get? You find yourself reading the word doula quite a lot. “I had a doula at my birth, and she made me so much more comfortable!” one woman boasts online. “My doula met me at my house as soon as I wanted her support!” another shares in excitement. “My postpartum doula came to my house after baby was born, and talking to her made me feel so much better.” These stories leave you with some questions about doulas. What’s a doula? Do you need a doula? How do you even say the word doula? Maybe you’re having a planned cesarean, will a doula even support you? I have a few answers to those questions.

First, there are actually two different types of doulas. Postpartum doulas, support you after baby is born. Labor doulas support you during pregnancy and after, but they get the most face time at your birth. Labor doulas are the most common kind of doula, but the benefits of having a postpartum doula are catching on quickly.

A labor doula will provide you with nonmedical and unbiased support you during pregnancy, birth, and shortly after. A doula is there to help you feel as comfortable as you can, during an uncomfortable time. They simultaneously support you physically through comfort measures, while tending to your emotional needs. A professional doula will take a client who is planning for any type of birth. Natural, medicated, cesarean, epidural, induction, multiples (yes twins, triplets, and beyond), lotus birth, your birth.

If you so desire, a doula will be happy to educate you on your options, and help you come to a decision that makes sense for your individual family. If you chose no extra education, that’s perfectly fine as well. Your doula is prepared and knowledgeable about the hospital your birthing in, what’s standard there, what your doctor and/or midwife is like, and with the many of the other questions and options you’ll have during pregnancy.

Some people believe that hiring a doula makes you have a more positive birth outcome. Although many people do report that their doula felt like an essential, it’s important to recognize that a doula has no control over how your baby decides to come into the world. Your doula can not, and should not attempt to fix any problems that arise. She supports your changing plan to the best that she can, makes your comfortable, and may help you process what is happening.

There are some statistics people like to use to explain what doulas do. One study showed that when births were attended by a doula, they saw less use of pitocin, increase in spontaneous vaginal birth, decrease in the use of pain medication (think epidural), decrease in cesarean, and a few others. These statistics aren’t anything a doula can promise, additionally they continue to stigmatize epidurals and cesareans. Many women desire an epidural, and planned cesarean, and that’s ok. When you hire a doula it should be because you want extra support during your birth, not because you want a specific type of birth. At the end of the day, you’re the one who is having a baby, no one can do it except for you.

That’s right, a doula can not promise you any type of birth. This is why it’s important for a doula to support all births. The unbiased support may lead to some powerful work, but sometimes babies have different plans. A doula certainly can’t promise a positive birth experience, but being open to a changing birth plan can. Having a doula who supports that change can be very important.

A doula shouldn’t be advocating for you or any single type of birth. Like I said earlier, unbiased support. Say a doula is advocate for natural birth. Even if that’s your plan, plans change, and you need a team who supports changes. You have a voice, and they can remind you to use it. Advocating for you isn’t going to make you feel in control. You will feel empowered when you are making the shots about your birth, not when someone else is speaking for you.

A professional doula is going to let you keep your experience as your own. They don’t share your story, or pictures without permission, and they never interject their emotions onto your experience. Being a doula leads you to some heart work, and part of that heart work is taking your own emotions out of the picture, it’s better to reflect the emotions of the new parent/s and their team.

A doula is so many things, and isn’t so many things at the very same time. It’s never too early, or too late to hire a labor doula until your baby has been born. A postpartum doula will happily support any parent with a new baby. Maybe now you have a better grasp on what a doula is. 

If you live in the San Diego area, and are looking for support reach out to us. Southern Pacific Doulas is happy to provide San Diego families with the best support.

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