The What’s and Why’s of a Doula via My Experience
I fully believe that if it wasn’t for my birthing support team, which consisted of my midwife, doula, mom and husband, that I would not have had what was as close as could be to the birth that I wanted for my son.
When I first wanted to hire a doula for his birth, my husband was skeptical, to say the least, but he went along with what I wanted. As soon as my son was born, my husband was the first to tout the efforts of our doula, telling everyone he saw about her and how grateful he was that she was there with us. As a first time father, never having been a part of a birthing ‘team,’ he felt a lot better having someone with him while I labored at home, following right behind us on our trip to the hospital and during the, at times, intense 12 hours that we labored at the hospital.
As for me, it was my doula who took the IV stand out of the room so that I wouldn’t have to look at it tempting me to get the epidural I was trying to avoid. It was also the doula that made sure I labored as long as I could in the comfort of my home, feeling secure that if the baby did decide to suddenly appear, that I was in capable hands (at least until the midwife got there). It was also the doula that worked with my husband who got me to stay at my house much longer than I would have liked at the time (although it was in the plan), because they were the ones keeping in touch with the midwife and knew that there were no available rooms at the hospital for me to give birth in at the time – it was literally standing room only!
In the days after my son was born, it was another doula who came to the house to offer nursing support, and it was she, not the hospital staff, nor the pediatrician, who noticed that the reason my son wasn’t getting enough milk was because he had a tongue tie. It was the same doula who gave me much support over the phone, whenever I needed it, to answer any questions I had about nursing, easing my mind and helping me to get through the rough beginning to sticking with it and loving it for 15 months with my son, and still now, on my current 19 month nursing relationship with my daughter.
Because it is what they are trained to do, doulas can offer all types of support during pregnancy, labor and post-partum, like no one else can.
In fact, Dr. John Kennell, who has studied the impact doulas have on mothers, babies, and childbirth, says, “If a Doula were a drug, it would be malpractice not to use it.”
The following information comes to us from the doulas of the Long Island Doula Association, Inc. (LIDA), in efforts to help people understand the many benefits of hiring a doula. The two doulas I used happen to be LIDA members!
When it comes to child birth, many mommies-to-be are exploring different techniques to have the best, most natural experience possible. Many of these women are going back to the traditional model of days of old, gathering a great support team around them, which includes the presence of a doula.
What is a doula?: The word ‘doula’ is an ancient Greek word whose literal translation means ‘slave to a woman.’
A labor doula provides individualized care, comfort and relief measures to a laboring woman. A doula can assist in gathering information about her pregnancy, labor and the options available for delivery. A doula can suggest different positions to labor in, can offer expertise on how to handle different phases of labor, and will stay with the laboring mom until the baby is born. Labor doulas work very well with partners/fathers-to-be and other family members; they work as a team and they can relieve each other. Dads/partners can sometimes offer more emotional support and comfort to mom. A doula can facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her health care providers.
A postpartum doula helps the new mother ease into her new role. A postpartum doula will focus on breastfeeding and making sure that is going well. She will step in and take over the typical household tasks such as doing the dishes, cooking, shopping, walking the dog, laundry, running errands and light cleaning. She can be invaluable to a family who does not have extended family to help out after the birth of a baby.
What are the benefits of hiring a doula?: A doula helps to ease fears about the birth and provides comfort to the laboring mom. A doula is trained to know what positions are more beneficial to labor in and she can relate to and understand the laboring mom. She can also provide information about common procedures and terms used in hospital settings. The doula’s main role is to help to keep the mother calm and feeling relaxed while laboring at home or in the hospital.
Studies have shown that by employing a doula, labor can be up to 25% shorter in duration, that there is a significant reduction in the need for pain medication, that there is a significant reduction in the need for a surgical delivery, that there are higher rates of breastfeeding, and that mothers who employ Labor Doulas report a happier, more satisfying birth experience overall.
Postpartum Doulas are beneficial to everyone; their presence leaves mom free to be with her newborn; to learn to breastfeed and to bond with her new baby. Postpartum Doulas are especially helpful to those who are experiencing trouble breastfeeding, had a surgical birth and need longer healing time, or for those women who are without a support system of family and friends to otherwise help her during this intense transition from ‘woman’ to ‘Mother.’
Some doulas also provide placenta preparation and encapsulation services, for those mothers looking to further the use of their placenta for medicinal purposes.
When should you first contact a doula?: This is really up to the individual, but ideally by 30 weeks Mom should be interviewing and making phone calls so that when she finds the right doula for her, the doula will still have room on her calendar!
To find a doula in the Long Island area visit The Long Island Doula Association Inc.’s website at www.lidoulas.com or call (631)574-2205!