What is the difference between a Doula and a Midwife?
People are usually surprised when I tell them that while doulas and midwives perform valuable roles on a birthing team, their scope of care does not, in fact, overlap.
Midwives are highly trained medical personnel who perform tasks such as: monitoring fetal heart rate, assessing progression of labour using cervical checks, monitoring frequency and intensity of contractions, and all other medical tasks during labour and delivery. Theirs is primarily a medical role dedicated to the health and safety of the birthing mom and the safe, healthy delivery of your beautiful babe.
My role as your birth doula is much different. Essentially, I’m there to provide a calm emotional and physical presence on the birthing team by focusing solely on the labouring mom and partner. In so doing, I use proven, non-medical comfort measures which decrease anxiety, increase relaxation, shorten the duration of your labour, and optimize your baby’s fetal position.
Another important role which I fill is providing continuous informational support to you and your partner. By helping you understand your options, I empower you to make informed, personalized decisions throughout the birthing process.
Finally, I’m also there to remind you that today is the day you’re finally going to meet your baby! Oftentimes, amidst all of the questions and variables present during labour, that simple, awesome fact gets lost, and I’m always honoured to play cheerleader as your amazing day unfolds.
Do Birth Doulas work just in home births, or in hospitals as well?
A huge misconception about Birth Doulas is that we are all granola-lovin’ gals who work solely in home birth settings. While it’s true that I’ve supported dozens of labouring moms in beautiful home births, just as much of my care is spent in providing equally beautiful birth experiences in hospital settings. In fact, a large part of my practice involves fostering working relationships with the midwives, OB’s and nursing staffs who I come into contact with at the amazing hospitals we have here in the GTA.
How exactly do you work alongside my partner? Won't they feel left out if you’re there?
Actually, not at all. What I love about my support role is that I’m always careful to include the partner in the birthing equation. The truth is that partners are becoming parents just as much as the birthing partner is, and I always take special care during my prenatal visits to listen to what role they’re comfortable taking the day of the birth. Once those roles are defined, I adapt my support to fill those areas where the partner may not be as comfortable, and free them up to love and support their birthing partner in the way they’re best suited.
What type of training does a Birth Doula have?
With a large number of people becoming Birth Doulas over the past few years, a number of doula organizations have emerged worldwide to educate, support and certify prospective candidates.
Personally, I chose certification through DONA—Doulas Of North America—as it is the world’s first, largest and leading doula certifying organization. After pursuing training, I was recognized as a Certified Birth Doula CD(DONA), and maintain my certification through an ongoing education process which ensures I stay on top of the most up to date, relevant information for my clients.
In addition, I am also a member of the Association of Ontario Doulas, as well as the Registered Doulas of Ontario.
Can a Birth Doula help if I’m having a planned or unplanned cesarean birth?
Absolutely! I’ve had the pleasure of attending many cesarean births, whether planned from day one or because of circumstances that arose during pregnancy. And while it’s true that moms and partners may not be experiencing the same ebbs and flows of labour, there’s still a huge gap of support that I can help fill.
A typical cesarean birth experience involves me showing up at the hospital at the same time as my clients and helping walk them through any last minute questions and details. I then remind the birthing mom of the coping tools we’ve discussed and help her as she is prepped for surgery. After this, I sit with the couple as they’re waiting to be brought into the OR, taking amazing pictures of the moments before their sweet baby is born, and again answering any last minute questions. When permitted, I’ll venture inside the operating room with the family, but if hospital policy doesn’t allow for this, I typically sit with the partner and support them while the birthing mom is brought into the OR.
As soon as the family is allowed into the recovery room following surgery, I resume care in much the same manner as I do for vaginal births: helping with skin to skin, providing breastfeeding support, answering questions, and taking pictures of the new family’s precious first moments together. I then continue care just as with every other client by providing call, text and email support, visiting at home to help with infant feeding and tips to read baby’s cues, as well as delivering crucial information that helps ensure mom heals well.
Will my private health insurance cover the cost of a Birth Doula?
Well, if you have private health insurance or health benefits, doula care may be covered through a flexible health spending account. There’s been a lot of momentum in this area over the past few years, so I always encourage people to inquire with their insurance provider, and then submit a receipt for the services after the fact (even if they’ve been told no). The more people that submit receipts for doula services, the more the insurance companies perk up and take notice of the need for birth support that exists in our society.
What if I want an epidural or other medical pain relief?
Again, a common misconception about doula support is that I am only needed or only choose to support clients who wish to have a non-medicated birth. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My main goal for each individual client is to support them in their own personal choices. Let me make that clear. I am not involved in birth support to push an agenda or enforce some list of principles that I hold to. I am there for you. The birth experience is uniquely personal for each birthing mom, and my main goal is to help you and your partner assess what you want your birth to look like, then do everything in my power to support, educate and empower you to that end.
The second part of this epidural question that I often get asked is, “Once I get an epidural, will I even need you anymore? I mean, how do you support me then?” The undercurrent of the question is that most moms picture that once they get an epidural that they will simply sleep until their baby falls out. Well, that’s not the case. :-)
Although getting rest once you have an epidural is priority number one, birth after an epidural is often not as uneventful as some moms hope it will be. There is a constant monitoring of baby once an epidural is in place, an IV with fluids to help keep mom hydrated as well as her blood pressure stable, and a whole host of other variables to manage. Mom is encouraged to shift positions (side to side) every half hour or so, and she is only able to drink clear fluids..no orange juice or food from this point on. So, while the pain might be lessened, the emotional and physical stress of things can still rise to the forefront as you wade through what’s to come (pushing, hopefully!) and the more immediate concerns (hunger, how baby is coping, possible breakthrough pain/epidural needing a top up, etc).
All that to say, an epidural can be a great tool for a lot of moms, but the fact remains that birthing moms will still be in labour, with all the same questions, concerns and need for emotional support.
Won't my nurse or my doctor/midwife do everything I need?
Doctor’s (OB’s), midwives and nurses are an essential part of every mom’s birthing team. I have attended births at dozens of hospitals and private homes all over the GTA and I can honestly say that the level of expertise of the OB’s, midwives and nurses that work in this region is second to none. They are your primary healthcare providers (PHCP) and their number one job is to ensure the health and safety of both you and your baby. To understate their importance would be foolish.
That being said, because of time constraints, most health care providers care for multiple patients at a time, documenting labour progress and providing vital medical care all the while. As your Birth Doula, I don’t share the same divided attention. Because of my role, I am able focus solely on you and your needs, providing continuous, uninterrupted support, while also respecting the medical personnel and being careful to remain within my scope of care as an essential, non-medical addition to your birth team.
What assurances do I have that someone will be able to attend my birth if you have multiple clients?
Great question, and the answer, I think, really sets me apart from other Birth Doulas. You see, when I set up my practice, I was passionate about providing great, reliable service, even amidst the often unpredictable nature of babies' expected due dates. To make sure every client gets the best care possible then, I developed a network of Birth Doula practitioners who are able to provide amazing support in the unlikely event that I’m already engaged with another birthing client when you go into labour. These great ladies will be with you and your partner every step of the way, providing the same great care you’d expect from me, and will hold the fort until I can arrive at your birth myself.
Do you work with other healthcare professionals who you can refer me to?
For sure. Almost every client I’ve ever had has experienced a need for some sort of healthcare provider either before, during or after their birth. Be it for breastfeeding support, massage therapy, chiropractic care, osteopathy, postpartum doula support, or even pelvic floor physiotherapy—I’ve developed a great network of professionals who I’m confident in referring you to meet all of your healthcare needs.
You can see just a few of these by clicking on my ‘Contact’ page.