Preparing for your birth and postpartum period may include the hiring of a doula. A doula is a well-trained and experienced person who will provide emotional, physical, and informational support during your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Many scientific studies have shown that having a doula at your birth can dramatically reduce your risk of unnecessary interventions - including c-sections, instrument delivery, and pain medication. Ultimately, a doula’s job is to support the birth that YOU desire, so if you are planning to receive an epidural, or need to have a c-section, a doula can still help in many ways.
Did you know that there are different kinds of doulas? A doula may focus her practice on only the prenatal and birth period. Or she could be a postpartum doula or a sibling doula. Some doulas may offer all these services, or a different combination all-together!
Prenatal and Labor Doulas
A prenatal and labor doula focuses on your well-being and preparation during the prenatal period and during the labor and delivery of your baby. You will meet with your doula several times during your pregnancy. These meetings may include conversations about your birth - your hopes, fears, worries, or concerns. A doula can provide you with unbiased information so that you can make the best decisions for you and your family. Your partner may have his or her own worries or questions, so they should also be a part of these conversations. Your doula may be able to suggest books to read or physical exercises that may help to prepare you for labor and delivery (remember to always check with your midwife or doctor before beginning any new exercises). Your doula can help to ease your doubts and fears, she can inspire and encourage you too, and will definitely be your cheerleader when you need one!
During your labor, a doula will provide continuous physical, mental, and emotional support. Rubbing your back, reminding you to go to the bathroom, and take sips of water are all things she can do to help ease the work of labor. She may suggest different positions to try when things get intense. She may remind the nurses that you would like to walk around when possible, or that you would like an epidural when it’s time. Or she might help you find your voice to say, "no thank you" to the nurse when she offers you an epidural. She may turn the lights and the volume on the monitors down when you need some space and quiet to go within to find your strength. She may remind your partner to go get a bite to eat. When it comes time to push your baby out, your doula will help in whatever way is needed - physically supporting you, or encouraging you with supportive words, or helping to facilitate your partner’s involvement.
A doula’s job is to help you have the birth that you want. This can mean many things, depending on your birth preferences, and how your labor develops. However, no matter what, your doula will do all she can to help you have the best birth possible, on your terms. In all birth settings - home, hospital, or birth center - a doula can be a valuable asset to your birth team.
In an ideal world, all postpartum women would get to spend at least thirty days being waiting on hand and foot. Nourishing and healing food would always be available, you could sleep without worrying about your other children, and somebody else would do all the laundry.
A postpartum doula can provide at least some of this. You can hire a postpartum doula to start coming to your home within a day or two after you and your baby are settled in, or whenever you need their help to begin. A postpartum doula can help fill in with any needs you and your family have - laundry, cooking meals, running errands. She can also directly help you with breastfeeding issues (if she has the training and experience). Maybe the best help is taking your other children to the park so that you and your baby can sleep. Your postpartum doula is an expert helper that can help to ease your postpartum period and ensure that you and your new baby are off to the best start possible.
But What is a Sibling Doula?
A sibling doula will take care of your other children while you are laboring and during the immediate postpartum period. There are many reasons why you would choose to have your children with you at your birth, but navigating the care of those children can be challenging, to say the least. Your partner will need to be free to focus only on you, and having other relatives or friends present to care for your kids could introduce complicated emotional issues that you may want to avoid.
Hiring a sibling doula to care for your children can solve all these potential problems. A sibling doula will visit once or twice before the birth to spend time with your kids. They may suggest activities to have available during your labor, such as new movies, coloring books, or crafts. Baking a birthday cake for the new baby is always fun, and yummy!
When it comes time for the labor and birth, the sibling doula will follow the lead of your children, involving them in the labor and birth as much as you all feel comfortable with. They will stay with the family for several hours after the birth, making sure that you are all settled in.
No matter what kind of doula you decide to hire, having their expert help during this important time in your life is always a good idea. Interview several different doulas and ask about their experience, training, and certification. Ask for doula suggestions from your circle of friends, and your primary care provider. A doula can be a wonderful asset to your birth experience, and to your recovery afterwards. You absolutely deserve the care they can provide.