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The Doula, Momma’s Best Friend!

When it comes to pregnancy, birth and postpartum we like to say a doula is a mom’s best friend. Finding a doula may be a bit of a chore or you may have a friend who’s used a doula that was perfect for her and you know would be great for you. A look into the doula’s role is helpful so that you can formulate your thoughts to find a doula for your own experience. Just like finding your care provider, rely on friends and online reviews. Here are your first steps toward finding the doula who’s going to be the very best for your experience. Before you start the interview process, you’ll want to compile a list of questions which includes your most important issues around your birth. Your doula will be coming in as part of your birth team along with you, your partner, your caregiver, labor and delivery nurses and a pediatrician, in the case of a hospital birth. And your doula will provide you with evidence-based information throughout your pregnancy as you prepare for your birth and will provide emotional support to you and your partner during the birth as well as physical support and comfort measures. Doulas are a great asset to both the mother and her birth partner, especially in a first-time labor. They helped decipher what might be foreign terms used by medical staff and they help distill the meaning into easily understandable lingo for you. Your doula will be your go-to person for comfort measures, explanations, reassurance and vigilance throughout your labor. She will advocate for you with hospital staff and help weigh options as they are presented.

Getting ready for an interview with the doula, you’ll want to formulate a thoughtful list of questions to have ready. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. For instance, how many births has she attended? What kind of complications has she seen? Does she have a certification? (This may or may not matter to you but many hospitals require doulas to be certified.) If you have cultural issues to emphasize, feel free to discuss them in an initial interview. The birth of your baby is an intimate experience and you want the support of a doula who understands your priorities. How often will you meet with her during your pregnancy? Can you text or call her with questions? How does she help with pain in labor? What if you get an epidural? Can she help with breastfeeding? Does she have a backup doula? How about her fees? Many doulas teach childbirth classes or other info classes which would also help you to get to know her better.

Because a doula stays with the laboring woman throughout the birth process, she is more confident and less apt to feel she needs an epidural. Labor and delivery nurses are unable to devote that kind of constant support but the doula’s training is for emotional, informational and physical support hour after hour for the duration of the birth process. Women using doulas confirm that the strength of doula support was invaluable in delivering naturally. Confidence gained by the support of a doula is credited with avoiding c-sections. The doula’s vigilance enables the partner to take a snack break or a nap as needed. Her encouragement translates into maternal confidence which leads to positive statistical birth outcomes and emotional satisfaction by mothers and partners. There is little that can replace the stability that a well-trained doula brings to the birth room.

You may also be interested in the services of a post-partum doula. These highly trained professionals help ease the new mother/family into what is sometimes called the “fourth trimester.” This is the first 12 weeks of the newborn’s life, when baby is learning about the outside world and parents are wrestling with juggling sleep, work inside and outside of the home and often young siblings whose needs remain constant, despite the increased responsibility a newborn requires. Some doulas specialize in postpartum care only while some do pregnancy, birth and postpartum. A postpartum doula is invaluable with lactation help, assisting with siblings – perhaps laundry and meals, especially if there isn’t another adult to help. The postpartum doula is trained in normal newborn behavior, maternal issues and lactation assistance and brings encouragement and practical help to the new family.

The help of a doula is a gift you give yourself! Happy birthing!

Pam Weaver, Midwife. Author, Practical Skills Guide for Midwifery, 5th edition.

Owner, Labor Link, birthing device for labor.

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