“I have a very supportive partner…”
“I have a really attentive midwife…”
“I love my OB so much…”
“This is my fourth baby…”
“…do I REALLY need a Doula?”
These are all variations of questions I hear all the time. And they are legitimate questions! When it comes to choosing who will be in your birth space, it’s important to make the decisions that will be right for you and your family.
First off, let me give a really brief description of what a Doula is, and what she is not.
A Doula is a continuous, trained, supportive presence in the birthing space. She is a knowledgeable resource, a friend, a companion, and a champion of the birthing Mother.
A Doula is not someone looking to replace your partner, give you medical advice, or take over the birth in any way. She is not there to make decisions for you or argue with your choices.
With that in mind, let’s go through some of the situations I listed at the top of the page.
I have a really supportive partner.
Yay! I am so, so glad. I absolutely love working with couples where the partner is supportive and wonderful and attentive. But even the most angelic of partners will still need to use the bathroom. Or eat. Or will need a break from hours of providing continuous counter pressure.
As a Doula, my goal with inexperienced birth partners is to help guide them so that they can provide the most helpful support to Mom, which can draw the couple together in an even more intimate way. For partners who have been through births with Mom already, my goal is to be another set of hands, help take care of both the woman and the partner, and add my voice and presence so that everyone can stay as strong as the Mama needs them to be.
I have a really attentive Midwife.
Again, yay! I love midwives. I truly believe our country needs more of them if our maternity care is ever going to improve. But in a hospital, a midwife will most likely have more than one woman she is caring for at a time. She may come to the end of her shift and be replaced by another midwife in the practice. She will need to come and go and communicate with the nurses.
As a Doula, my entire focus is on Mom, from start to finish. I don’t leave at 7pm. I don’t leave the room for extended periods of time (unless I am asked to so that Mom and partner can have some privacy.)
In the case of a home birth, a midwife will stay continuously, but she will also need to be periodically checking on baby and staying attentive to the more medical aspects of the labor. At home, a Doula can be another set of hands to boil water or prepare food, another body to help support Mom as she changes positions, and an extra voice to encourage Mom through the intensity of birth.
I love my OB so much.
This is pretty much the same answer as if you have a hospital midwife. Your OB may be wonderful and supportive of your birth plan, but they are more often than not just too busy to stay and support you through each contraction and help make sure you are moving around and drinking water.
The continuous presence of a trained birth attendant has been proven over and over again to shorten labors, decrease the number of interventions, and improve women’s experiences.
This is my fourth baby.
Every labor is different, even for the same Mom. For this situation, I actually do hesitate to say that you for sure need a birth Doula. If you have easy labors, are a super private person, have a wonderful support system, or prefer to birth alone, you may actually decide that a birth Doula is not for you. If you have long labors, are planning a VBAC, or have other factors, you can still receive the same benefits that a birth Doula would provide to any other birthing woman. Just keep in mind that each labor is different, and having the peace of mind that a Doula can bring may be even more valuable if you have other children at home.
If this is your third or fourth child, you will definitely benefit from a postpartum Doula. Lining up the help you need to make sure that you get adequate rest after baby is just as important as ever, if not more so!
No matter what your situation, a Doula can be a wonderful addition to your birth team. I encourage you to look up Doulas in your area and set up a few interviews to find the one that is right for you!