"Oh you're a doula? That's like a midwife, right?"
While birth doula care is increasing in popularity, it's still a mystery to many people. After we've established that as a doula I am actually not just like a midwife, (Wichita Doula covers that distinction fantastically here) the next question is usually "Well, so what do you do then?"
That answer... isn't an easy one. You see, a doula's duties are as varied as the families that choose to hire us. The great thing about doula services is that they are completely tailored to your unique experience. What works for one person may make another turn up their nose- and that's ok. Here's just a small sampling of what your doula may do for you during your pregnancy and birth.
Answer your questions and share in your joys (and fears). One of the benefits of hiring your doula early in pregnancy is that she's there along with you for the entire ride. Your doula can act as a first point of contact for those "I'm not sure if this is normal" questions or the "I'm so over these stranger belly rubs" moments. Consider me your personal sounding board.
Help you decide if this time it's really labor. Your doula can assist you in recognizing the signs of labor, and knowing when to ignore and keep 'doing life' and when to start making forward progress to your chosen place of birth and settling in.
Help you get settled. Whether your place of birth is home, birth centre or one of our hospitals (Women's Hospital at Health Sciences Centre and St Boniface Hospital are both great choices)- a doula is a great resource to put those finishing touches together- whether that means inflating and filling a birth pool, setting up your favorite music or walking you through the strange hospital hallways and settling in to your new home away from home. Feeling comfortable and secure in your birth space makes such a difference in your ability to confidently handle the sensations of labor- and your doula makes sure the job gets done.
Provide support while you move. Movement during birth is linked with shorter, less complicated labors. As a doula I will suggest different ways to use movement and position changes to help you cope with each contraction. It may mean we go for a walk around the halls or the neighborhood, stopping to lean on me during contractions, or it could mean providing a firm foundation while you handle contractions on the birthing ball. If you've chosen an epidural, a doula can help you change positions in the bed for greater comfort and to encourage baby to move down easier.
Remind you that this is normal, this is good, and you are doing just fine. While birth is inherently normal-- it can also be intimidating and scary! Your doula is there at each turn to explain the unexpected and reassure you when you're feeling worried. Having a doula who is experienced in pregnancy and birth and can soothe your fears is priceless. Sometimes all you need when you're struggling during labor is someone who can whisper in your ear that you are rocking those contractions.
Soothe aching muscles and release tension. Touch relaxation and counterpressure are truly truly wonderful tools. During labor a doula may use massage techniques or touch relaxation to pinpoint areas that you are feeling tension and help you release. The looser and more relaxed your body, the less pain you will experience. Another one of my favorite doula moves is providing counterpressure or a double hip squeeze. Many birthing people feel their contractions primarily in their backs- providing steady counterpressure during contractions can greatly reduce the sensation and allow you to focus on releasing and breathing through contractions.
Help your partner find their feet. I have been blessed to witness many amazing partners offering support to their significant other during birth. And they almost unanimously have told me before labor they were nervous. That they wouldn't be enough, they wouldn't know what to do, that they didn't know enough to be a good support. The labor room can be an overwhelming space, and partners thrive knowing that all the pressure isn't on them. With a doula present, your partner is able to watch, learn, and step in as much (or as little) as they are comfortable. Having a doula present also allows them to take food or bathroom breaks without worrying that you'll feel abandoned.
Give Postpartum Support. A doula provides nonjudgmental support during your postpartum period as well, whether you have questions about feeding, sleep (or lack thereof!), babywearing, diapering or more. Having a doula means that there's always someone just a text or call away, ready to encourage or answer questions.
If you're already convinced that a doula is right for you, head on over to our Contact page to set up a time for us to chat and get to know each other better. If you're still needing a bit more information, stop on over at the Services tab for a list of what is included with your birth doula care. And as always, don't be shy to ask more questions if you need. I love to talk about my work!