Having a baby is so exciting, but it can also be daunting. There are so many questions to answer- What should we name the baby? Where should I give birth? Cloth or disposable diapers? Should I get an epidural?
Should I get a doula?
This question is becoming more prevalent as doulas become increasingly popular- and for a good reason too. Having a doula has SO many benefits. This time around, I brought on an expert guest to explain. Lisa Witkoski is a birth doula, living and working in Hellertown, PA. Please enjoy her post below. You can find her on facebook- https://www.facebook.com/lisabirthdoula/
When people hear the word “doula,” several stereotypes come to mind. Some people confuse the term with “midwives.” Others think a doula is a hippie-loving woman who believes all modern medicine is bad and wants everyone to give birth in the woods. Ha! In reality, a birth doula is a non-judgmental advocate who provides physical, emotional, and educational support to a mother before, during, and after childbirth. A doula will meet with the mother weeks before she gives birth to discuss her questions and fears, and together they will create a birth plan. Of course, things do not always go according to the birth plan, but this document acts as a guide so that the mother can have as empowering a birth as possible.
Sadly, I have heard countless stories from women who felt they did not have a say in what was going on while they were in labor. Some reported feeling stupid asking questions, feeling forced into making decisions, or feeling like they did not have options. One thing I always say to my clients is that they have the right to informed consent, not just consent. As human beings, we have the right to ask questions about what is happening with our bodies! No woman should feel negatively pressured from a medical professional during birth. God knows there is already quite a bit of “pressure” going on at that time, if you know what I mean! A good doula will help the mother feel empowered enough to trust in her body while asking questions if she is unsure about something. In addition to providing education and advocacy, doulas are also well-versed in pain-relief and relaxation techniques to help moms stay focused and comfortable during birth. Some women want to labor without pain medication, and doulas can help tremendously with this by utilizing their knowledge of positioning, massage, and breathing techniques.
Ultimately, doulas want a safe, healthy birth for Mom and baby, one that Mom can look back on and feel proud of! Doulas do not replace the role of doctor or midwife; rather, they act as a well-informed labor companion who focuses on Mom, while the doctor or midwife handles getting the baby out. In a sense, birth doulas are the coach to help get you through your delivery! Various studies show having a doula can reduce the risk of having a cesarean by 28 percent (Hodnett et al., 2012) to 56 percent (Kozhimannil et al., 2016) for full-term births. This is incredible when you think about it. And yet, think about how much better your average work day would be if you had someone massaging your feet, calming your fears, giving you information before problems occur, answering your questions, and cheering you on every step of the way! A doula helps a mom be her best self during childbirth. Women are extraordinary creatures capable of SO MUCH- and we often forget that!
In addition to helping moms, doulas often help husbands and partners feel more at ease. The role of a doula is not to replace the mother’s partner, but rather to complement him/her. Men in particular are notorious for wanting to “fix” things when there is a problem, rather than listening and validating. (Come on, you know it’s true!) Moreover, many dads-to-be feel helpless during childbirth because they want to immediately fix the pain and discomfort; doulas can actually help empower dads to actively participate and provide support during the birthing process in their own way, depending on their comfort level, so that everybody wins!
Once a mother gives birth, a doula will stay just long enough to help the new family get settled in, as this is precious bonding time for Mom and baby. At this time, the doula can assist with basic breastfeeding, answer any last minute questions, and assure the new parents that they can do this! A birth doula will follow up with the mom over the next two weeks for a postpartum visit. Most new moms do not get checked themselves by a doctor until at least six weeks after giving birth, but postpartum issues and breastfeeding struggles can happen way before that appointment! A doula can help spot these issues sooner and provide support and resources as needed, in addition to answering questions a mother may have about newborn care.
Without a doubt, doulas can play a vital role in the birthing process. Long ago, women would gather during birth to help the mother-to-be deliver her baby. Somewhere along the line, this tradition faded away. Rest assured, birth doulas are bringing it back! You see, as with many other struggles in life, there is a difference between pain and suffering. A mother can feel pain and still feel supported, validated, and cared for. Studies have shown when an individual is in pain and feels unsupported and unheard, he or she actually feels the physical pain more intensely! Having a birth doula by your side during labor is a guarantee you will never feel unsupported. It is the goal, and the upmost honor, of a doula to make every woman feel not only heard, but empowered as she brings a new life into the world.