Doulas: Are They All Hype?

March 04, 2020

Doulas: Are They All Hype?

We are BIG fans of doulas here at Beluga Baby. 

Let me tell you why. 

Doulas have been growing steadily in popularity over the last few years. Some people claim that they would never birth without their doula!

So is it all hype? Or is there something to this trend. What even is a doula?

A doula is not a midwife or an OB. They do not perform any clinical tasks like checking baby’s heart tones or doing cervical checks. They do, however, do just about everything else when it comes to your prenatal care, birth, and postnatal care. 

Prenatal Care

  1. Provide information to help you make informed choices about your care.
  2. Be a listening ear when you’re feeling overwhelmed or need someone you can ask about small pregnancy related concerns that don't seem big enough for a call to your doctor or midwife.
  3. Give advice and referrals for common pregnancy complaints that may be helped by other outside providers such as chiropractors or acupuncturists to help fix problems before the birth process begins.
  4. Work with you to find out your birth preferences and then to support you in succeeding in those choices when the big day comes. 

Birth

The time has come, the day you’ve been waiting for all these long months. It is time to give birth to your baby. 

Doulas fill in the gaps between labor starting and when it is “time to go”, whether that means to a hospital, birth centre, or having your homebirth midwife arrive. Many people feel like they need support before it is time to call in the medical team.This causes many moms and dads to show up too soon (to the hospital or birth centre) and get sent back home. This can be very frustrating and demoralizing. Doulas will come support you at your house and help you make the call of when it is really “Go Time”

What does this support look like? Let me list the ways:

  1. Emotional support for birthing mom and partner. Birth is an emotional time for partners as well. It can be really difficult for partners to stay in their thinking mind, trying to remember everything they learned in birth class and also experiencing the labor and birth emotionally. It is tough to have all that responsibility. Doulas help remind partners of the things they learned prenatally. Having a doula actually helps partners feel more comfortable being supportive and helps them take a more active role in the birth process.
  2. Practical reminders. From reminding a mom to keep her bladder empty and her water cup full, to suggestions to help labor progress and support for partners, a doula is there to make things easier so you don’t have 100 things to remember and can focus more clearly on the birth. 
  3. Massage techniques. Doulas can provide massage and counter-pressure to help you through contractions, reducing the pain of labour and helping you feel supported.
  4. Communication with medical providers. Doulas can help you communicate more effectively with your medical providers and give advice for questions to ask. And if the time comes when complications do arise or your birth plan needs to change, doulas help walk you through that and offer information about offered interventions to help you feel comfortable with your decisions. They help you feel like you are an active participant in your birth instead of birth just happening to you. 

You may be thinking all of this sounds great, but it also sounds like a luxury instead of a necessity. 

There have been several studies done on doulas and they all came to the same conclusion. Doulas are not just nice to have. They are proven to improve the outcome of your birth and the satisfaction you have from your birth. 

Having doula care is proven to:

  • Reduce cesareans 
  • Shorten labors
  • Decrease the use of intervention and pain medication use
  • Increase parental satisfaction with their birth experience
  • Improve mother/infant interaction and increase breastfeeding rates. 

This is also why Marsden Wagner, a famous obstetrician once said, “If doulas were a drug it would be unethical not to use it.” He believes that much in the benefits of doulas for all birthing moms. 

How to choose your doula

There are lots of doulas out there. How do you know which one to choose? 

Some have more experience than others and some excel in different types of births more than others. Plus it is so important to choose a doula that you really get along with and who feels comfortable to be around. It’s also important to make sure that your doula has reliable backup who you can meet and whom you also love. 

So my advice? 

Interview all the doulas you can and ask lots of questions. Read reviews from other moms who have used that doula and hire someone with a good reputation in your birth community. I also tend to recommend hiring doulas who work separately from hospital systems. This means they work just for you, but they should have a friendly working relationship with your medical providers. Make sure you hire a doula who will come to you when you need her and not when your provider says you are in active labor. Read the fine print in the contracts to make sure you are comfortable with it all. 

Now that you have your dream team put together, sit back and relax and know you are in good hands for the birth of your baby. You got this momma, birth is hard but you are strong!

Resources: National Institute of Health, American Academy of Pediatrics, Evidenced-Based Birth

Written by Jessica Mckee is a birth assistant in and out of hospitals, as well as a doula. She co-owns Flourish Birth Services and is a co-host on the Wine About Birth Podcast



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