Nightingale Night Nurses 2-2020-56

4 Ways a Doula Can Transform the Birthing Experience for Moms-to-Be

Women have been helping each other through childbirth since the dawn of time. Today, we call these dedicated people doulas. The word doula comes from ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves.” Modern professional doulas serve just about every niche of the childbearing spectrum: birth, postpartum, loss, antenatal… doulas are there for you every step of the way to parenthood and beyond. In this post, we’re going to focus specifically on birth doulas and how doulas help transform the birthing experience for moms-to-be. 

1. Continuity of Care

Obstetric care today is typically described as “high tech, low touch.” Technology like ultrasound, genetic testing, and electronic fetal monitoring are the standard, while deep relationships with care providers are not the norm anymore. Moms-to-be typically see several different providers prenatally, and they won’t know which doctor will deliver their baby until the time comes.

Labor nurses offer some hands-on care, but parents are meeting them for the first time in labor and they change shifts every 8-12 hours. But in pregnancy, parents-to-be really crave deeper connections and continuity of care. That’s where doulas come in. Birth doulas are hired prenatally, often as early as the end of the first trimester. Hiring your birth doula early on in your pregnancy gives you time to build a relationship and take full advantage of having a professional in your back pocket for questions that come up in the months leading up to birth. 

During labor, your doula will be there with you as soon as you’re in active labor and ready for her support. She’ll stay throughout the birth and until you’re settled in afterward, feeding your baby. Most birth doulas provide 1-2 prenatal visits and 1-2 postpartum home visits, as well as unlimited phone and text support during your contract.

2. Hands-On Support

Many parents assume that their labor and delivery nurse will be in the room with them through every contraction, providing physical and emotional support. But the truth is that hands-on support is just one small part of a labor nurse’s job. Nurses’ main duties are to monitor mom and baby’s vital signs, document in your medical chart, monitor equipment, and administer medication. They may be responsible for multiple patients at a time and are also in charge of keeping providers in the loop about your progress. All of this can leave little time and energy for hands-on comfort measures like massage or acupressure. That’s why hiring a birth doula is so important. A doula’s only job is taking care of you and your partner. She is there to rub your back, offer you sips of water in between contractions, and hold your hair when you throw up! Your doula is trained in providing labor comfort measures and is attuned to subtle signs women give in labor when they need different kinds of support. 

3. Setting the Scene

In addition to massage and acupressure, your doula brings special touches to the birthing room. She may offer aromatherapy or guided meditation, soft lighting or gentle music. Birth doulas are known for their bag of tricks, and you will be relieved when she pulls out a personal fan when you start to break a sweat during labor. Labor hormones build when the mom-to-be feels safe and at ease, and doulas know how important it is to create a comfortable and calm environment in the labor room. 

4. Education 

Doulas are experts in normal pregnancy and birth. They are an encyclopedia of suggestions to combat common prenatal discomforts, bring stubborn babies down into the birth canal, and help newborns latch onto the breast or bottle. If your heartburn is keeping you up at night, you can text your doula instead of drowning in Google searches. She will help you create a birth plan by focusing on what kind of experience you want to have. She’ll help you prepare your body, mind, and soul for birth and new parenthood. When you’re in early labor, she’ll help you approach contractions with calm and confidence, and she’ll help you determine when you’re ready to move to the hospital or birthing center. If your labor stalls, your doula will have different suggestions on changing positions or different interventions to try. If a complication arises, she’ll help you weigh the benefits and risks of different options. She’s your go-to person for advice on postpartum healing or newborn care. If you need help finding a therapist, lactation consultant, or chiropractor, you need only ask your doula for your area’s top professionals. How doulas help depends directly on what you need: your doula is your dedicated birth expert. Your birth doula will be there for you every step of the way to meeting your baby. 

Doulas Help Make Birth Better

Growing and birthing a baby is a monumental feat. It’s a long, hard journey and one that we’re not meant to go alone. Doulas make birth better by being there for parents along the way. Parents say that doulas help them have more satisfying birth experiences, and the evidence shows how doulas help improve birth outcomes. Doulas provide informational, emotional, and physical support for parents-to-be. They bring special touches to the labor room, helping parents to have a positive birth experience. While they don’t provide medical care of any kind, that’s the beauty of their job: their role is to uplift your experience holistically, providing expertise and companionship along one of life’s most challenging and rewarding paths – becoming a parent.