What is a Birth Doula?
Support for each birthing parent and baby varies depending on their individual needs, but the three venues of support Birth Doulas are trained to provide fall under the categories of Informational, Emotional and Physical Support.
The short answer is that Birth Doulas provide caring, professional non-medical support to birthing parents and their partners before, during and after the birth of their baby.
The longer answer is that Birth Doulas are an indispensable part of your birthing team who aren’t trained to deliver babies, but are highly trained professionals whose scope of care includes:
A comprehensive knowledge of the physiological aspects of childbirth
An experiential awareness of the stages of labour and which positions are most conducive to maintaining baby’s optimal positioning
An exhaustive know-how regarding birth options
A proficiency in providing comfort measures which mitigate the pain and duration of labour for birthing parents
An eagerness to fill the gap between the clinical care which health professionals provide and the often heightened emotional state of birthing parents and partners
A passion for continuing education involving the newest clinical studies and research
WITH BIRTH DOULA CARE...
PATIENTS' LENGTH OF TIME IN LABOUR DECREASES BY 25%
PATIENTS' NEED FOR USE OF SYNTHETIC OXYTOCIN DECREASES BY 40%
PATIENTS' NEED FOR CESAREAN BIRTH DECREASES BY 50%
PATIENTS' NEED FOR EPIDURAL PAIN RELIEF DECREASES BY 60%
Who Needs a Birth Doula?
I truly believe that every birthing parent and their partner deserves to have a Birth Doula present with them as they journey toward the birth of their baby(ies).
Birth Doulas are truly the emotional 'ying' to the medical personnel’s 'yang', and their role and importance cannot be overstated.
More specifically, if a birthing parent falls into any of the following categories, I would strongly suggest they pursue the services of a Birth Doula:
If they are fearful and/or anxious
If they know their partner is fearful or anxious
If they feel ill-prepared or under-informed regarding their birth options
If they feel like they needs help advocating for their birth wishes
If they desires to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean)
"Continuous support during labour may improve outcomes for pregnant persons and infants, including increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labour, and decreased caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia, low five-minute Apgar score and negative feelings about childbirth experiences. We found no evidence of harms of continuous labour support.”
“For middle-class women laboring with the support of their male partner, the continuous presence of a doula during labor significantly decreased the likelihood of cesarean delivery and reduced the need for epidural analgesia. Women and their male partners were unequivocal in their positive opinions about laboring with the support of a doula.”
Research Regarding The Benefits of Doulas
How Do I Find The Birth Doula That’s Right For Me?
For as much as a Birth Doula’s scope of practice is fixed by regulatory agencies, it is important to note that no two doulas provide the same care and services. Like with any other client-care relationship then, the single most important trait in finding a good Birth Doula match is … FIT.
Remember, the Birth Doula you choose is going to be an active participant in one of the most cherished and impactful events of you and your partner’s life. As you seek out birth support then, it’s wise to compose a list of questions beforehand which will help determine if the doula honours and reflects the same values that you do.
Some basic questions to ask to determine fit are:
How many births have you attended in a support role?
How would you describe what makes your doula care different from others?
What practically do you bring to the table that will truly elevate our birth experience?
What sorts of birth situations do you have experience supporting?
What are your thoughts on … (insert specific questions/concerns here: home vs. hospital births, OB vs. midwife care, medicated vs. unmedicated, the importance of skin-to-skin touch, breastfeeding vs. bottles, the viability of cord blood clamping, etc.)
Which hospitals do you have experience servicing?
How did you get into the field?
What ongoing training are you actively participating in?
One Final Note: The Birth Doula field has exploded over the past few years. Because of this, finding a doula who's qualified, and also right for you, can be a tricky proposition.
Beyond asking the above questions, the best advice I could give someone who’s seeking a Birth Doula is simply to take your time and trust your gut. If you have any hesitations or concerns about your fit with a doula during your initial meetings, then politely move on and keep interviewing. There’s simply too much at stake to proceed without complete comfort and peace of mind.