What is a Doula?
Are they necessary? What are the benefits to having one?
Doulas are still a new things for a lot of people. When I tell people I'm a Doula, they often respond with...
“Oh! That's so cool that you get to catch the baby!”
Nope. That's not what I do. That's what the Midwife or OB does.
Doulas have actually been around for many years. In fact, humans have almost never birthed alone and almost always had support with them.
The word Doula comes from the greek word "δούλα" which means female slave. The term we use today was coined in the 1976 by Dana Raphael. Today, some Doulas, myself included, are very conscious of the name's origin and have chosen to refer to themselves as Birthworkers, Pregnancy Companions, and Careworkers.
So what does the modern day Doula do?
In the most simplest of terms, Doulas provide mental, emotional, and physical support for pregnant individuals throughout their experience. From pregnancy, to birth, and postpartum. As well as advocacy, resources, and education.
A birth Doula can be hired at any point during your pregnancy. Preferably the earlier the better - before your 3rd trimester if you're able to. Most people hire Doulas between 14-20 weeks. But, there really truly is no exact timeframe to do it. Postponing hiring a Doula just puts you at risk of not being able to find a Doula who is available around your estimated due date. I was hired at 38 weeks once and luckily we were able to have just enough time together before the baby came at 41+1.
What can you expect from your time with your birth Doula? Most Doula's line up 1-2 prenatal visits before your EDD. During this time, you get to discuss your birthing preferences with your Doula, talk about labor coping techniques and positions, as well as talk through what to do when you go into labor. Most Doulas will also encourage you to take a Childbirth Education Class, and possibly even chest feeding class. From the moment you sign the contract with your Doula, they are accessible to you by phone call, text, or email. Your Doula will most likely encourage you to update them on your prenatal appointments with your medical provider. And any time you have a question for your Doula or are looking for a resource for something, they will be there to point you in the right direction. If your Doula doesn't know the answer or isn't sure of something, they will encourage you to discuss it with your medical provider.
On the day of your birth, your Doula will be there to help you physically move into different positions that encourage the baby to move downward toward the birthing canal. They help advocate for your birth preferences to help you have the birth experience you're looking for. They can also be an empowering non-bias presence that can keep you and your partner motivated throughout the entire experience.
Doulas make sure you're heard. They make sure you keep moving. They keep you hydrated and fed. They can set a relaxing atmosphere for you with soothing music. They can facilitate conversations with your medical provider and staff. They make sure your partner gets rest breaks. And they can even help facilitate chest feeding after the birth.
Doulas work in Hospitals, Birthing Centers, and Homes. Doulas will join you during your labor, whenever you need or want them to. And they usually stay with you up to an hour after your birth.
You can hire a Doula if you are having a natural birth, epidural, c-section, Home birth, Birth Center birth, or Hospital birth.
You can hire a Doula if you're having your first baby, second baby, third baby, twins, triplets, and more.
I could keep going but, I would be typing forever.
The point is, having a Doula during your birth experience is an incredibly valuable service.
So what is a Postpartum Doula?
Well, most birth Doulas will visit you at least once after your birth to check-in and make sure everything is going ok. They'll ask about your chest feeding experience and provide you with any resources you may need to make it a successful one. But, after that, unless you hire them specifically for postpartum work, that's usually the end of their contract.
Postpartum Doulas can be hired either before or after the baby is born. Again, as far as availability goes for a Doula, the sooner you hire them, the better your chances are of finding someone when you need them. Postpartum Doulas usually work with your family about 4-6 weeks after the birth. Some Doulas have the availability to extend the contract.
Postpartum Doulas are, in my opinion, a very underrated and under utilized source of support in the US. We do not know how to do postpartum here. Most people rely on their family, which is great but, not all family is reliable. Some of them don't understand the best way to support someone. Even family has its limits.
Postpartum Doulas can be hired for daytime help and/or overnight help. They come to your house and will provide childcare, light housework, food prep, chest feeding support, and allow you and your partner the chance to sleep through the night, take a nap during the day, or even just shower. Most importantly, they can also provide comforting support to the birthing person by lending an ear and actively listening to how their client is feeling. They know when to come, when to go, how long to stay for a visit, and how to be out of your way.
They are like magically little elves who will help your family adjust to the new way of life after birthing your baby.
You can have a postpartum Doula with your first baby, second baby, third baby, and more. In fact, the more babies you have, the more valuable helping hands become.
What are some other types of Doulas?
Miscarriage & Loss Doulas
Harm Reduction Doulas
Doulas who work with birthing people who are incarcerated.
Doulas who are trained to support people through gender affirming surgeries.
Doulas who are trained to support disabled birthing people.
A Full Spectrum Doula is someone who is trained in all of above and can support all of these birthing people.
Which is ME!
Some day I will go more in-depth on each of these different types of Doulas but for now, I must rest my fingers from typing this first blog post! I hope you enjoy my stream of consciousness. My goal with this blog is to educate, support, and dump my never ending thoughts about birthwork.
Thanks for reading!