What’s one thing expecting parents can do in pregnancy to positively influence the outcome of their birth? Hire a birth doula. Doulas are professional guides for growing families, providing expert support during each phase of becoming parents. Building a support system for this experience should be top priority, and finding a doula is a great place to start.
There’s a common misconception that doulas only attend births occurring at home or in a birth center, which is just not true. A large part of the doulas job is to provide non-judgemental support to birthing people and their families, which means their goal is to help you reach yours. You’ll find doulas supporting clients in the hospital, the birth center, and at home; through epidurals and unmedicated labors; and by the client’s side during a scheduled cesarean or the start of an induction. Doulas support ALL births.
Here’s what you can expect when hiring a birth doula:
A birth doula provides one-on-one support during pregnancy, acting as your go-to place for local resources and evidence-based information. Doulas are plugged in to the birth community and have a list of the best practitioners and up-to-date data. Need to find a local chiropractor or an article explaining more about what your EDD really means? Your doula has you covered!
Doulas also offer 1-2 in-home visits during pregnancy to explore birth philosophies and goals, help craft a birth plan, discuss partner’s level of involvement during labor, and demonstrate comfort measures that may be used. This is a great opportunity for expecting parents to ask ALL the questions and really get to know the doula.
When the big day comes, your doula is by your side providing physical, emotional, and informational support. If spontaneous labor occurs, your doula will be there for phone support during early labor and up until the point you ask them to join you. If a scheduled cesarean or induction is necessary, you will work out the appropriate time for your doula to join you. Doulas provide continuous support during labor and birth, which means they may step out for short breaks but they will be by your side until shortly after your baby is born.
In between comfort measures to ease the labor process, they make sure your questions are answered so you can make informed decisions about your body and your baby. Doulas work alongside OBGYNs, Midwives, and nurses to ensure you feel fully supported and respected along the way. Although doulas will advocate for you, they know it is much more effective if you are encouraged to be your own advocate. You are more likely to walk away feeling satisfied and empowered, if you get to call the shots regarding your birth.
Part of a doula’s job is to also be mindful of your partner. Does he/she need a meal, a water refill, or to step out for a quick breath of fresh air? Having a doula on board during labor means that your partner can take care of themselves knowing that you will not be alone. Often, the doula and the partner will take turns doing comfort measures and taking breaks, which makes for a fully supported and well-functioning birth environment.
Once baby arrives, the doula will stay for the first 1-2 hours. These golden hours are an important bonding time for you and your new baby, and the doula will help protect that space. Beyond that, the doula can help with breastfeeding, make sure you and your partner have a meal after all of your hard work, and answer any questions about what comes next.
You doula will plan to do an in-home visit within the first week after baby is born. This is a great opportunity for parents to ask questions regarding infant feeding and newborn care, and to process the birth experience. Doulas are trusted professionals, who can help you navigate your thoughts and emotions about the experience in an empathetic and objective way.
You may consider hiring your birth doula to provide postpartum support as well, if she is trained in that area. That continuity of care from a doula who aligns with your birth and parenting philosophies will have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of your growing family.
Jami is a birth and human rights advocate, who respects the fierce vulnerability and power in creating, welcoming, and nourishing every stage of a family. She is a certified birth and postpartum doula through Doula Trainings International (DTI), has also trained with DONA International, and received her Lactation Educator Counselor credential from the University of California San Diego.
Jami’s goal of supporting a thriving village extends beyond her role as owner of AustinBorn. She is an active member of her local doula and birth communities, and holds memberships with the Central Texas Breastfeeding Coalition and the Austin Young Women’s Alliance, and is the former Secretary of the Central Texas Doula Association.