I get this question a lot now so it prompted me to write about it!
According to DONA International which is the largest, oldest, and most respected doula association in the world, a doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and just after birth. Some are even trained in providing support during the postpartum period.
But what does this actually look like and why is it important anyway?
Well there are multiple studies that show that women who have doulas have shorter, less complicated labors, have healthier babies and have an easier time breastfeeding. Who doesn’t want that!
To show you what it actually looks like to have a doula I have gotten permission from a very good friend of mine to share with you the experience that I had at her birth. Here are 5 things that doulas do that I personally did for my friend.
- Doulas aren’t afraid to get touchy feely
A lot women in labor want physical comfort. My friend really enjoyed low back massage, hand squeezing, foot massage, and sometimes just a long embrace to get through a contraction. Doulas aren’t afraid to get close to their clients when they need it most!
- Doula’s remind mom of what’s going on
Whether it be something her baby is doing or something that’s being administered to her by hospital staff, reminding mom of what’s happening to her body is extremely important. Doulas are very knowledgeable of the birth process and remind mom that everything is fine and normal. I constantly told my friend “that’s it, she’s (her baby) coming down, she’s moving down and out” when she was experiencing a contraction. I noticed that this always seemed to give her more strength and it definitely helped her to relax more. Not only does it help moms not to panic but hearing that the pain you’re feeling is actually accomplishing something can sometimes be enough to get you through!
- Doula’s verbally encourage and affirm moms
My friend was one tough momma and I made sure to tell her so! When she was breathing particularly good during a tough contraction I made sure to tell her “good, yes, that’s good!”. I acknowledged that her contractions were hard and painful but that she was really working hard and doing awesome. In between contractions I kept encouraging her that she was doing a wonderful job working with her body and that her baby was coming soon. That little bit of encouragement means the world to women in labor!
- Doulas and dads actually go well together
Ask the husband of any woman who’s had a doula and I guarantee most of them will say that they absolutely loved it. I think it’s safe to say that most men are pretty uncomfortable around birth and are especially nervous seeing the one they love in so much pain when they can’t do anything to help. Doulas are a confident and experienced constant in the room for Dad’s to draw strength from. My friends husband had a particularly hard day at work that day and I could tell he was so grateful to have me there to comfort his wife. I made sure to check on him to make sure he had eaten and that he was taken care of as well. Because of this he was much more relaxed and able to give his wife the emotional comfort she needed.
- Doulas help in practical ways
There are a lot of practical ways doulas can help during labor. I made sure to visit the hospital once or twice before my friend went into delivery so I knew exactly where she needed to go once we got there. This made for an easy transition to the hospital. I brought an incense diffuser from their house to make the hospital room feel more like home. I got my iPad out to put on a nice “labor and delivery” music playlist. I was able to update our mutual friends of the labor process through Facebook. I timed contractions. I grabbed a baby outfit out of the bag for extra encouragement as my friend got her epidural (which helped a TON). There are so many ways moms and dads need to be served during labor and doulas are happy to do it!
These are just some of the ways a doula can help a woman in labor but there are so much more! Hope this gives everyone a better idea of what a doula is and does!