Today I am finally kicking off my blog on my Doula website. WOO HOO it feels good! This has been something I’ve planned to do for months but we have been traveling, as we always do in the summer, and I’ve had clients and certification work to keep me busy.
So here I am writing my first post and I wanted to start off by dispelling some common myths about Doulas and what we do.
Our first myth is that a Doula does something medical, similar to a Midwife.
This is a common misconception in my experience. When I tell someone I am a Doula I usually ask them if they know what that is, their response is usually something like, “yes, you deliver babies!” Most of you probably know this is not true but if you don’t know much about Doula’s you should know that we do not do anything medical. The word Doula comes from a Greek word meaning “female servant” and the modern definition is: a woman, typically without formal obstetric training, who is employed to provide guidance and support to a pregnant woman during labor.
Myth number two is that a Doula is only necessary at a planned natural birth.
False! Doulas are helpful at any and all kinds of births. While it is true that a lot of women who are trying to have natural births often hire a doula, doulas can be of immense value at any birth. For example when a mom wants an epidural a doula can educate the mother about the process and when would be an ideal time to get one, then once she has it the Doula can be there for moral support, bringing things mom needs, and helping her into different positions in the bed that can keep labor moving along. Sometimes an epidural will not take on one or more sides of a mother’s body and at that point a doula is an excellent back up plan. For a C-section a doula is able to comfort the mom and, if mom wants, may be able to go into the operating room, depending on the hospital. For c-section moms a Post-partum Doula can be a life saver, helping around the house while she enjoys precious moments with her new baby.
A third myth is that a Doula is simply a labor coach.
While sometimes a doula can play this role, a good doula is far more than a labor coach. More times than not a doula is operating in the background, helping dad know what to do, bringing mom a drink of water, hip squeezing, rubbing her back, applying a cold or hot compress etc. A good doula attempts to understand what mom is feeling and therefore meet her needs without her having to ask. A good doula will also recognize when mom might be reaching her breaking point and need a confident word of encouragement, or when she is pushing with all her might the doula will become the cheerleader. So this myth is partly true, but you get the point!
Myth #4: I don’t need a doula, I have a ______________. Fill in the blank with Midwife, partner, mom etc.
While I encourage all mothers to have whoever they wish at their births, none of these people are a substitute for a good doula. Your husband may be your rock and may have taken a Childbirth class with you and (kind of) read that book you had been nagging him to read. ;) However, when true labor contractions hit and you realize you are actually in labor, the excitement is high and 9 out of 10 times dad will forget all of his training. It is difficult to see the one you love in pain and as Husbands a lot of time they just don’t know what is helpful to you, this is where a good doula will step in and show him. He may have learned counter pressure is helpful but not know when and where the right spot is for it. Another thing to consider is if you are having a hospital birth but have certain desires for your birth plan, your husband may be too concerned with helping you to remember the birth plan and advocate for your wishes. Doulas are experts at helping you advocate for your rights during your birth. If you want your husband to be your main support person, make sure you tell your doula this and the right doula will help make your husband your Labor Hero.
A good midwife can and does operate as a doula when the need arises but most Midwives love having a doula at the birth because it means they can focus on their most important job - the health of you and your baby. Midwives have to keep a close watch for signs of problems, monitor heart rates, blood pressure, etc and make sure baby and mom are ok during pushing and that baby arrives safely. Doulas and Midwives work together to help Mom during labor.
I would say that the birthing mother’s Mom might actually be our best candidate for a substitute doula in some specific cases, as a doula is essentially “mothering the mother.” However, as with the husband, a lot of moms do not like seeing their daughters in pain and can’t handle that when the time comes, they become more of a worried presence than the calm, confident one that the doula can be. Also some mother-daughter conflicts can make this a tricky situation, the last thing you want in your birthing space are old negative emotions arising. So while the choice is up to each pregnant mom as to who is her support person, a doula is going to be the most beneficial and fit for the job.
Myth #5: I can’t afford a Doula.
Ok so I don't know your personal situation, while a doula is certainly an investment, so is a wedding planner and all of the costs that went into your wedding. If you put all that into having a great wedding, why wouldn’t you invest in the birth of your child? Giving birth is a sacred, yet natural event and a doula understands this and seeks to make it one of the best experiences of your life, sadly so many moms are having the opposite experience during birth. You can read some positive birth stories where a doula is present and the families will say that their doula was worth every penny. There are also ways to offset the cost of a doula; most doulas offer payment plans so you can pay their fee gradually leading up to birth. Also some insurances will pay for doula services, I have also had clients pay for my services with their HSA accounts. A doula’s services can make the difference between “just getting through” labor and actually having a positive birth experience, and that is worth it.
Myth #6: doula is a Hippy that burns sage and rubs essential oils on my face while singing and telling me to “just breathe and open.”
Ok this one is a silly one :P but seriously I have encountered family of clients who totally do not understand the purpose of the doula. When my client told them she had hired a doula they thought there was going to be some kind of Pagan ritual going on. Haha! Also when I was pregnant, my husband told his friend that while he was out of town, if something were to happen I could call the doula and he replied Abdula? Who’s Abdula?! LOL. While some doulas certainly are eccentric, most are just normal women and often mothers who have had their births impact their lives in ways that they want to help other mothers. Some are not mothers but have the instincts and training required for the job and help laboring moms in their own ways. There are many different styles of doulas so when you are looking for one it is important to find one that lines up with your beliefs about birth, your values in life and your desires for your birth. There are different doulas for different clients, don’t be afraid to shop around, and doulas, don’t let your ego get too big to recommend another doula if you know you are not a good fit.
Well I think this is all the myths that I have time to debunk today. I hope this helps you in your decision to hire a doula and your journey in hiring the right one! Are there any myths that I've missed that you need some clarity on? Comment below!