Doula? What's that?

When I say that I am a doula, nine times out of ten my interlocutor doesn't know what I'm talking about. The second reaction I often get is " Oh, that's kinda like a midwife, right?". Wrong. In this post I will attempt to explain, in my words, what a doula does exactly. Not only so that more people know what we do, but so that future parents can learn about why and how they can benfit from our services.

First of all, a doula is NOT a midwife. She doesn't take care of the medical follow-up of the pregnant woman, and is not the person who is medically responsible at the birth. She cannot prescribe medecine or diagnose complications.

On the other hand, what she does is just as useful. Her role is to prepare, inform, reassure and offer an emotionnal and physical, support to expecting parents before, during and after the birth of their child. The services of a doula are split up in three parts: The prenatal visits ( between 1 and 4 depending on the parent's needs) , presence during labor and birth, and a post- natal visit a few days after. Some doulas also offer various other services, like post-partum help, prenatal classes and workshops, or even working with children who will attend their new sibling's birth by preparing them beforehand and reassuring them during the big event.

During the prenatal meetings, the doula answers all the questions the future parents may have. She explains to them how the physiology of birth works, gives them tools to prepare for the physical and emotionnal strain of childbirth, helps them to deal with the fears they may have, informs them about all the possible medical interventions and about their risks or benefits, helps them to write their birth plan and prepare for life with an infant, the care the baby might need, and informs them about the benefits of breastfeeding, babywearing, and much more! Usually, to cover everything it takes about four visits, and these meetings replace group childbirth classes.

Afterwards, during the last weeks leading to the birth, the doula stays in touch regularly with the expecting mother to know what's happening, and offer advice or reassure when needed. By the 36th week of pregnancy she is available 24/7 to reassure the mother and to be ready for the birth when the moment comes.

As soon as active labor kicks in, she is there to help out with dealing with the contractions, offer emotionnal support, and knows lots of little tricks to help relieve the pain. She stays for the whole process, no matter how long it takes, and until a few hours after birth so she can help out with breastfeeding and be sure the new mother is at ease with handling her new baby. In the delivery room, the doula also advocates for the parents' choices, meaning she is there to make sure the birth plan is respected and the parents know what they are doing if some interventions are offered. For example, if the mother requested delayed cord clamping in her birth plan, and when the baby comes out the doctor wants to clamp the cord immediately, she is there to remind him/her (nicely) of the new parent's wishes and be sure they are respected.

Finally, after a few days, the doula comes over to visit the new family, and see how they are doing. She helps the mother whith her breastfeeding issues, asks how their first nights went, and offers advice to solve issues if needed and gives references in case they might need more help. That postnatal visit is also a great opportunity takl about the birth went and see what everyone feels about how it went.

This pretty baby is my cousin's baby girl. Her arrival is partly what finally convinced me to become a doula!

In my next post, I will explain why hiring a doula can make a difference in your birth experience!

Have a nice day!