Giving birth is an overall stressful experience. Oftentimes mums giving birth have reported feeling anxious, scared, painful, mentally and physically exhausted. You have probably heard of some ways to relieve your labor pain already, herbal remedies, relaxation techniques, or things that you should prepare in your hospital bag to make you more comfortable - but what about a Doula who will offer you comfort and support during your labor?
What is a Doula and what does a Doula do?
Doulas can be categorized into three types based on the specialization and service they provide: birth doulas, postpartum doulas, and antepartum doulas. Here are their specific roles and responsibilities:
Birth Doula: Assists with expectant mum’s labor and childbirth
Postpartum Doula: Assists new parents after childbirth in taking care of their baby
Antepartum Doula: Assists with expectant mums who are subjected to high-risk pregnancies
Doulas are trained to provide comfort, support, and encouragement during labor or postnatal periods. They can be seen as a “mum-like” or “sister-like” character who guides you through relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and your postures from their own experience and knowledge. They can help educate you about the labor process and help you translate medical terms that can be hard to understand. For pain management, they practice non-medical techniques such as aromatherapy, massage, music and find the most suitable combination for you.
What are the Benefits of Hiring a Doula?
A lot of things are happening simultaneously during labor. It is easy for mums to lose their focus and not know what to do when you are splashed with continuous waves of contractions, excessive pain sensations, and sometimes the bad news of having to do an emergency C-section. Your doctor will be checking on other patients and is less likely to stay by your side throughout the whole process or offer emotional support. You might think that your partner will be your emotional support throughout the process - but the reality is, it’s most likely his first time experiencing birth too. Soon you’ll be annoyed at the bombardment of questions like: “Is this right?”, “How do you feel right now?”, “How can I make you feel better?” and you just wish he’d stop.
This is exactly why you need a doula. A doula will keep your condition and emotions in check. She will always stay by your bedside to attend to your needs. She will share her own experiences to offer you assurance and help soothe your emotions to face the unknowns. The Cochrane review in 2017 has found that continuous support provided by doulas reduced the rate of emergency cesareans, the need for pain medications, and shortened the length of labor. The findings were based on 26 studies from 17 countries with more than 15,000 expectant mums. In short, a doula helps comfort your body, soothe your mind, communicate with doctors and partners, ease your pain and make you feel more assertive throughout the whole process.
How to Find the Right Doula For You?
After hearing all the benefits of having a doula by your side during birth, you may be wondering how to find the right doula for your needs. Here are some tips to help you:
Make sure your doula is certified at accredited training: You can check with DONA International to see if your doula’s information is in their database.
Make sure you go along with your doula: Childbirth can evoke emotions and discussions about your body conditions that are really private in your life - you would want to make sure you share a connection with your doula and do not feel uncomfortable about sharing your information.
Make sure your doula agrees with your birth plan: Every mum can have a different picture of how they want their childbirth to be. You should make it clear that your doula understands and respects your wishes about how you want to plan your big day.
You can also ask those questions in your interview:
Why did you choose to become a doula?
What is your philosophy about childbirth, pregnancy, and postpartum care?
What certifications do you hold?
How many years of experience do you have and how many births attended?
Where did most of the births take place? Hospital, home, birth center?
What was the most difficult birth experience you’ve attended?
Do you have any specialization in terms of relaxation, pain relief techniques, etc.?
What services do you provide, any additional fees?
Do you have a backup if you’re unavailable when I need you?
What is your suggestion for my birth plan?
...But watch out for those warning signs:
Doulas are not medically trained, they should always respect the practitioners’ medical advice and not offer their own medical recommendations or opinions. If your doula happens to share a strong opinion on how the birthing process should be done medically, that’s a warning sign you should look for. Some other warning signs to look out for:
Her method worked well for others but you don’t feel comfortable about it
Her birth philosophy doesn’t match yours
She posts her case stories on social media and you don’t feel comfortable with it
She tries to be everything all at once (Doula, Midwife, Lactation Consultant, Massage therapist, Childbirth educator, etc.): Keep in mind that she may not be as specialized in those fields compared to other doulas who have only specialized in 1 or 2 skill sets. You may be also under the risk of not having a backup for those roles if she’s not around for you.
Takeaways: Pick a doula who is passionate about her work, dedicated to offering their profession in ensuring that mums get the ideal childbirth experience possible. Trust your guts and look for someone with who you feel reassurance and connection. Don’t be afraid to turn down doulas for trivial reasons - you only have to think about your own needs and stay true to yourself for a smooth and successful experience. Because in the end...it’s all about you, mummies!