On May 11th, 2019, Amy Schumer took to Instagram to thank the numerous people who helped her during her pregnancy and birth. You can see the specific post here. In her post, she gave a shout out to her Doula. She explained that she didn't totally know what it was a doula did "But what she did was make me and Chris feel totally secure and supported throughout my pregnancy and the birth process." So in actuality, she does know what a Doula does.
Doulas feel like a relatively new profession in the world of pregnancy and birth. The reality is though that Doulas have been around for a very long time. The word "Doula" is a Greek word used in ancient times to describe a higher level servant that would have been responsible for the woman of the house and her pregnancy and babies. Today, the term refers to a professionally trained person who assists the birthing parent and their family during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. Doulas assist the birthing parent and their partner with physical, emotional and informational support.
But what does all that mean?
Physically, a Doula can help with position changes, suggesting the best positions for comfort and helping to move the labor along. They can help identify back labor and assist with counter pressure or the double hip squeeze to aid in the discomfort of back labor. Doulas can help with massage techniques to aid in relaxation and comfort which can keep labor moving and ease any anxiety you may be feeling. Doulas can help with breathing techniques. Teaching the best way to breathe and ensure you aren't holding your breath, which happens sometimes, or breathing too shallow which can make you feel light headed. Even in the case of an epidural, a Doula can support you physically in early labor making suggestions for what to do while you are still at home, and once at the hospital and the epidural in place, a Doula can stay present and vigilant while you and your partner sleep, and ensure you are changing positions in bed to keep your baby in the optimal position for labor and birth. Doulas as also help during the pushing stage, by offering suggestions for pushing, supporting you and encouraging you as you push and keeping an eye on your partner for signs of fainting as the pushing stage can be intense, even with pain medication. A Doula will also make sure everyone is eating, staying hydrated and comfortable throughout the labor.
Emotionally, a Doula is there to understand what you are going through. Even if the Doula hasn't had a baby themselves, they can still relate to what it means to be cared for, supported and listened to. Doulas nurture, are the shoulder to cry on, hand to squeeze, the empathetic ear not only for you but also your partner. They ooze calm and confidence in your ability and what's happening so you can feel calm and safe during your labor. If anxiety or stress begins to rear its head, a Doula can talk you through what is happening, make suggestions to ease your stress and may even bring a smile to your face. Suzanne Lim a Toronto based Doula says "I think people underestimate the value of simply having an experienced, nonjudgmental, knowledgeable, person on their team, available for consult practically at all times. The reassurance that can bring, the lessening of anxiety, the feeling of support and almost like a community belonging." For many who find the thought of birth scary and stressful, this emotion support can be invaluable.
A Doula can offer informational support by encouraging open honest discussions with your obstetrician or midwife. They can offer up to date, evidence-based resources to help you better make decisions before and during labor. A Doula can help translate the medical speak that may be confusing during labor and encourage you to ask questions so you can understand what is happening. Doulas may also teach prenatal classes to help you understand the process of birth and breastfeeding better. Having a Doula as a resource is better than diving down the scary deep hole of Google searches.
Finally, Doulas also help support breastfeeding by helping with the first latch after birth and offering general help and information when you get home. Doulas will also support families who are choosing not to breastfeed. They are an unbiased, non-judgmental support person who is there just for you and your family.
Doula support during labor may not be for everyone, particularly if you are wishing to have another family member besides your partner with you in your birth. Most hospitals have a rule on the number of support people you can have. Doulas can also be considered expensive. The pricing can range from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. The price for a Doula to support your birth will vary by geographic location and occasionally level of experience. Newer Doulas can sometimes offer discounts to families so they can gain experience. Doulas, however, are not required to work for free while they are completing their certification. This is a common misconception for people. But as a trained professional regardless of their experience level, they can make one of the most important times of your life less stressful, more comfortable and allow you and your partner to enjoy the experience of childbirth at your own comfort level and make it a day to look back on fondly. So if you are pregnant, look into the Doulas in your area, if you find one you like, add them to your baby registry or just hire them as soon as possible. Remember the sooner you hire one, the sooner you have that support available to you and your family.