Most first time mamas aren’t really sure what to expect when it comes to giving birth. Will it be painful? Will my birth partner know how to help me? Will I have the strength to go through with it?
Because we can’t predict how it will go (even when you’ve had a baby before!), you may feel like you could use some extra support during your birth.
That is where a birth doula comes in.
What Is A Doula?
The single most important component of every birth, no matter whether you have a midwife or an OB. The helper of the family after babies are born.
The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines doula as: “A woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during and just after childbirth”.
But at West End Mamas we define doula as: “The necessary birth companion for all births. The helper of the birth partner. The provider of ice chips. The squeezer of hips. The ultimate, experienced, calm through the storm birth support. The keeper of the mama’s sanity.”
Your midwife or your assigned nurse or your obstetrician is there for the health of you and your baby and will make sure that everyone is safe and sound. However, the birth doula is the one that will be helping your partner find ways to make you more comfortable. The birth doula is the quiet calm in the storm. The one that will remind you of your birth plans when you aren’t able to think clearly. The one who will guide your birth partner when are panicked and feeling helpless about seeing you in pain. The one that will suggest positions to help the baby descend and rotate, who will put lip balm on your lips when they are dry and who will remind you that THIS IS NORMAL. Birth is normal. Your body is built to do this. You can do this.
Common Questions About Doulas
When is the best time to hire a birth doula?
You can hire a doula anytime. The owner of West End Mamas hired her doula when she was 7 weeks pregnant! Others wait right up until the very end to hire one. Either way is just fine. Thankfully we have a team of wonderful doulas right here in-house, so finding someone that you feel comfortable with that is available around your due date isn’t usually too hard to do.
What is the difference between a birth doula and a postpartum doula?
Birth/labour doulas are present for your birth. That can be a hospital birth, a home birth, a car birth (we certainly hope not!), or anywhere in between. They are there for your labour.
Postpartum doulas are there to support the new mama. They do things like help with breastfeeding, folding laundry, preparing light meals, tidying up, holding baby so mama can sleep, and they do a whole ton of education with mama to help her know what is normal in the postpartum period. For hundreds of years, we raised children in villages. New parents would have been surrounded by women who would care for her, and allowed her the time to rest after baby was born. They would educate her on how to care for her own baby, and hold that tiny infant so that mama could rest. Nowadays, we are expected to do this all by ourselves, and many of us realize quickly that it’s not that easy to do alone. Postpartum doulas bridge that gap, assisting after birth to help mama adjust to her new life.
Does my doula provide medical advice?
Doulas are not medical practitioners. They may be able to provide insight from their own experience at births of what they have seen before, but their job is not medical. However, any good doula will be well aware of your birth plan and will help you achieve that and will help you communicate your desires to your medical team.
What if I want an epidural?
Go for it! Doulas are not here to judge your birth plan. They are there to support you in your choices. If you would like a completely unmedicated birth, your doula will support you in that. If you decide after labour begins that you want to throw that plan out the window and get an epidural, they will support you in that too. If your plan is to get the epidural in the parking lot before ever stepping foot in the hospital, they will support you in that too. Birth is tricky and unpredictable. We are here to support you no matter what happens.
What are some doula stats?
We’re glad you asked! A number of studies have been done on doula support. Here are some of the numbers. Having a doula attend your birth can help:
- Reduce your labour time
- Reduce unnecessary interventions (Pitocin, caesareans, episiotomy, etc.)
- Improve your breastfeeding relationship and bonding with your baby from the very first moment that your baby is born
- Give your birthing partner confidence
Basically, we think that doulas are the bee’s knees. We hope you do to.