How can a doula can support you (and a partner)?
As you prepare for birth, you’re likely reading a book or a few, attending provider appointments, washing some small sized clothing, attending a childbirth preparation class (or two), and somewhere along the way someone mentions that a doula may be a helpful option for your labor and birthing experience.
But why would anyone consider hiring a doula if they’ve done classes and things?
Studies demonstrate many medical benefits to birthing people who are attended by a doula. The average length of labor can be shortened, pain is reported as better controlled, the cesarean rate is lowered, occurrences of interventions such as pitocin and episiotomies are lowered. Most of these can be directly traced to the increased calm and security of the birthing person who is continuously attended throughout labor and delivery with both emotional and physical support.
It is also found that birthing people who have professional doula support recount a more positive birth experience overall and describe less postpartum anxiety as well as more enjoyment in their parenting afterward, due in part to their confidence gained during the birth process.
Some things that doulas can do are:
- Provide emotional support
- Teach and use comfort measures: breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning
- Provide additional evidence-based information for decision making
- Continuously reassure and provide comfort to the birthing person (the key word is continuous—a doula doesn’t leave the birthing person’s side)
- Helps facilitate communication between the birthing person & support person and care provider
- Supports partner/spouse/family member who is present to support the birthing person
- Doulas are NOT medical professionals and do not perform clinical tasks, such as vaginal exams or fetal heart monitoring
- Doulas do not give medical advice or diagnose conditions
- Doulas do not judge birthing people for decisions made
- Doulas do not take over the role of partner/spouse/family member
- Doulas do not deliver the baby
- Attend births at home, birth centers, or hospitals
Often, support partners will wonder what their role will be if a doula is present. Doulas will include any person who will be present by providing the same education regarding the birthing process – what’s happening, how to manage and cope, what will after be like. Partners are critical to creating a sense of safety during birth (hello, oxytocin!) and are supported with guidance on how to best assist the birthing person through the labor process.
Additionally, having a doula present helps other support people take care of their own needs (naps, food & bio breaks), knowing that the birthing person is being cared for continuously. And in the event labor and birth take an unexpected path, doulas are there to provide informational support and a comforting presence; for example, if baby has to leave the room, the support partner can follow while the doula remains with the birthing person.
As doulas, we are there to hold space for and listen to the wishes and wants of the family. We spend time with the families we support during prenatals, asking questions and preparing responses based on their unique wants and needs, including listening to past experiences free from judgement, addressing concerns and fears about the upcoming birth, preparing for postpartum time at home, and so much more.
There are various training and certifying agencies from which doulas are trained from, and most have locators available on their websites. Don’t be shy in requesting to interview more than one!
Amanda R. Reyna
Birth & Postpartum Education + Reproductive Justice + Community
Amanda is a co-owner and the managing partner of Journey to Motherhood, LLC – Doulas of San Antonio, a birth and postpartum doula collaborative in San Antonio, Texas. Her work includes providing evidence-based support for birthing people, including full-spectrum reproductive support, childbirth preparation and education, labor and postpartum care, and placenta encapsulation services. Advocating for all aspects of reproductive autonomy has been at the root of her work since before becoming a doula and a parent, and as such she also serves on the board of directors for The Lilith Fund.