We like to share the most relevant and evidence based information. This post originally published on VBACLink.com:
Often, when people hear the word doula, they think of midwives. Although these two professionals provide a very important role in the birthing process, they are quite different.
So, what does a doula do?
We love, support, educate, and help birthing people and couples feel empowered in their birthing choices.
The day you have a baby is one that will likely be remembered for the rest of your life. As a career doula, one of my personal goals is to help the people I support to leave their birthing day with a positive view.
I was not able to have a doula the first two times I gave birth. After having a doula for my third pregnancy, not only did I feel a difference, but my husband and I saw one. I want to break it down, and tell you more about what my doulas did.
Offer support and love
- Encouragement: Doulas build you up and keep you going by using affirmations and motivational words.
- Presence: Doulas offer a calm presence in the birthing room, helping you and your birthing partner(s) to stay calm.
- Physical touch and comfort measures: Counter pressure can offer a lot of relief when laboring. Doulas are trained to help ease discomfort in all the special places like the hips, sacrum, knees, and back.
- Comfort and reassurance: Because birth is unpredictable, there can be situations where options are given. Doulas can offer their trained expertise and provide reassurance in the decisions being made.
- Partner support: Labor can sometimes be long, leaving birth partners tired and restless. Doulas offer extra support, so your birthing partner can rest, eat, and recharge.
- Food: Eating is often forgotten about by both the birthing person and the partner in labor. Doulas can help sustain the energy of you and your partner by providing food and drinks.
- Training: Most doulas spend days and sometimes even weeks or months becoming better trained and prepared to support birthing couples. In fact, doulas lower the chances of Cesarean Section by up to 39%.
- Pre birth support: Doulas will typically spend time with you in the prenatal stage, educating you on birthing comfort measures, fetal positioning and how it can affect your labor journey, stages of labor, and what to expect. Doulas can help you create a birthing plan or preference sheet if desired, and may even provide you with questions for your birthing provider.
- Support before they arrive: In my personal opinion, one of the best things about having a doula is that it’s like having a “lifeline.” You can reach out to your doula to ask questions, get resources, and sometimes just to have an extra ear to listen is a big benefit.
Those are just a few of the ways that I benefited during pregnancy and labor, by working with a doula. Check out our guide, What is a Doula, for a more detailed look at everything doulas do and their role in childbirth.
It is not very often that a birthing parent hires a doula and doesn’t like their experience. Doulas can impact your journey even before the birth takes place.
Emily in our VBAC Link Facebook Community explains how her doula has helped her so much already during the prenatal experience.
Birthing with a doula any day now. Having her support prenatally has been amazing, and I feel so empowered and knowledgeable already. I’m not scared like I was for my first birth. I feel prepared, and knowing she will be with me is giving me the confidence to let my body do its thing. Maybe because it’s my second, maybe because I have an amazing doula, but I’m not stressing over every little thing and texting my sister/mom asking “what is …” I know my doula is available any time via text/call if I have questions!Emily, a member of The VBAC Link Facebook Community
I’m a nurse and my partner is a paramedic, so I thought we would be fine for our first birth… boy was I wrong! I love my husband, but he had no idea what to do to support me during labor. Could he catch the baby if we were in the car or stranded somewhere? Sure. But helping me with contractions was so far out of his wheelhouse. I know having my doula there is as much mental as it is physical for me, because I have trouble taking off my nurse hat and connecting with my body.
I was scared during my first labor, and I feel like that greatly contributed to my c-section. Knowing I have a whole birth team this time makes me almost excited to see how this birth goes! VBAC or not, I know I have done everything I can to have the birth experience I want.
How do Doulas impact your birth? Here’s what the research says
Doulas can impact your birth in a powerful way. Being able to walk away from your birthing experience, no matter how it turned out, feeling loved, supported, involved, and heard is how it should always be. Doulas help make that happen.
The benefits are not only reported by birthing families, but backed by research. Evidence Based Birth® shares these proven benefits of working with a doula that we just love seeing:
- 39% decrease in Cesarean births
- 15% increase in spontaneous (non induced) vaginal birth
- 10% decrease in the use of narcotic pain relief
- Average length of labor decreased by 41 minutes
- 38% decrease in the risk for a baby having a low 5 minute Apgar score
- 31% decrease in the risk of the birthing person being dissatisfied with the overall birth experience
Doulas lower the chances of interventions, help decrease pain, speed up labors, and decrease the chances of having a Cesarean Section.
In addition to supporting birthing parents, doulas can leave an improved outcome for babies as well. By not having as many interventions and shorter labors, babies can benefit from better fetal heart tracings, avoiding an operative delivery, such as forceps or vacuum, and having a higher APGAR score.
As I was preparing for my VBA2C, I often found myself having questions on what my doula had seen before. At the time, I was a new doula, and hadn’t seen as much as they had. I loved that I could send a text message and ask their opinion on things like, where to find a chiropractor in the area that is Webster trained, or where to get a prenatal massage.
When it came down to choosing between a home birth VBAC or a birth center, they were able to put me in touch with trusted midwives in the area they had personally worked with.
There’s a lot of misinformation about doulas, like they take over the birthing partner’s role, they are expensive, or you don’t need one if you have a midwife. Now that you know the benefits of doulas, you don’t have to let doula myths stop you from being fully supported during your pregnancy and birth. Most people who hire a doula will be completely satisfied with their experiences.
Does a doula provide different benefits than a birthing partner or spouse?
When someone asks me if a doula provides anything different than a spouse, I reply with no hesitation. Yes!
However, this in no way means a doula replaces the birth partner.
When I asked my husband if we could hire a doula, he was initially upset with my question. He thought I wanted to hire a doula to replace him, and that I thought he lacked the ability to help me the way I would need to be helped.
Let me tell you that he was wrong in every way.
Doulas are able to provide different benefits than a birthing partner or spouse because they are trained and skilled in supporting birthing people.
“Yes! My doulas were confident in birth and what birth looks like. They were calm, and they supported my partner as well! My husband really struggled with our first (46-hour labor), and he needed help too. My doulas also helped me process my first labor and delivery experience in a way my husband couldn’t. They also helped him process. They had a ton of “tricks” up their sleeves as far as positioning goes and helped me understand some of the procedures in the hospital.Erin, a member of The VBAC Link Facebook Community
I knew I had a consistent, calm presence of someone who truly understood me and what I envisioned for my birth. I birthed at a hospital, where I didn’t know any of the providers, so consistency was very important. Our doulas also did a lot of background “prep” and work like candles and music. I really feel like they enabled my husband and I to have the experience we wanted. They also took pictures, which was something my husband forgot to do with my C-section, and that was so important to me.”
In addition to birth support, doulas also provide care and education prenatally. This is a great way for you and your birth partner or spouse to begin preparing for the day your little one joins your family.
In my doula practice, I typically provide two prenatal visits with my clients. During the first visit, I ask them questions about their previous birth, if there was one, what desires they have for this birth, how they personally learn, and how they cope during hard times or sudden changes. This visit enables me to become better aware of who they are, what they want for their birth, and how I can help both of them.
In the second visit, I teach the birthing partner or spouse along with the birthing parent more about childbirth, what it looks like, sounds like, and how to cope. Birthing parents usually comment on how much better prepared they feel after these visits.
Are you ready to set up your free consultation to see how a labor doula can best help you and your family?