Rachel is a Bradley Method® instructor and birth doula in downtown Phoenix. Her next Bradley Method® series will be offered on Tuesday evenings from January 10, 2012 through April 3, 2012.
To contact Rachel, please visit www.birthandearth.com.
Pictured above is a momma laboring in a birth tub. Dad is in the water with momma doing back massage, while the doula is rubbing mom's shoulders and encouraging her verbally. To the left is the midwife watching mom's progress. Baby was born a few minutes after this picture was taken.
What Is (and Isn’t!) a Doula?
A birth doula is a professional who is trained to continuous provide physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman in labor, and her partner. The word “doula” is a Greek word meaning servant, and that is truly what a doula does!
During a hospital birth, the nurse will visit the mom intermittently to check vital signs, conduct vaginal exams, monitor the baby, and conduct other medical needs. During her shift, the nurse will be caring for other patients, completing paperwork, and communicating with the doctor or nurse midwife, so she will not be able to stay with the laboring mother to provide comfort measures. Come shift change, the nurse will leave and a new nurse will come to check on the couple. An expectant mother very rarely meets her nurses prior to her arrival at the hospital.
On the other hand, a doula stays with the couple continuously. It is optimal to have the doula join the laboring mom at her home so the mom can labor in a familiar and comfortable environment as long as possible. The doula will travel to the hospital with the couple and will stay with them for the duration of the labor and birth. The medical procedures are left to the staff at the hospital, and the doula does the rest. Doula will assist the mom and her chosen coach as they utilize relaxation, position changes, massage, tub/shower, and other natural pain management techniques. She will get food and drink for the mom and her partner, gather tools such as pillows and towels, use the birth ball, and even take pictures. As mentioned, a doula is truly a servant for the laboring mother and her partner.
In The Bradley Method®, we teach that the partner (husband or otherwise) is the primary coach for the mother. A doula, therefore, is considered to be an assistant coach. When I attend births as a doula, I like to remind myself to “make the dad look good.” I grab the tools and make the suggestions he needs to provide the best support for his wife or partner.
Benefits of Doulas
Research has indicated that the support of a doula often results in:
- Shorter labors
- Fewer complications
- Fewer instances of medical augmentation
- More positive feelings about the birth experience
- Fewer requests for medical pain management
- Fewer instances of postpartum depression
- Mothers with more confidence in their abilities
- Greater success with breastfeeding
Finding a Doula
So, how do you find one of these amazing women? Here are some ideas:
- Visit the DONA website to find a doula certified through an international organization.
- Visit DoulaMatch to search for doulas near you.
- Ask your childbirth educator, prenatal yoga instructor, or care provider.
- Attend a local birth circle meeting and inquire about doulas.
- Ask your friends, family, and other moms that you know.
Interviewing a Doula
DONA has a wonderful list of recommended interview questions for doulas. I can’t emphasize enough the last two lines on that website:
“The way that you feel with a doula is more important than the number of births that they have attended or how many new families they have nurtured. You may want to interview more than one doula and make comparisons before choosing your doula.”
I always suggest that the Coach lead the interview because he will be working very closely with the doula and I feel that his opinion is just as important as the mom’s. Watch how the doula interacts with the Coach. Does she honor his opinions and speak as if she were his assistant? Or does she disregard his thoughts and direct her remarks to the mom? Her personality during the interview is a great indicator of how she’ll be during the birth.
The top two reasons I have heard for not hiring a doula are: cost and concerns that the Coach’s role will be diminished. Please don’t let either of these hold you back from the labor support you need! If cost is a concern then clarify your budget with the doula prospects and search for someone in your price range. Ask expensive doulas to refer you to low-cost doulas. There are even doulas who are providing their services for free as they work on their certification. Ask around! As far as the Coach’s role, almost all doulas will work very hard to assist and honor the Coach as the mom’s primary labor support. If you would like to learn more, I recommend the Dads and Doulas document on the DONA website (http://www.dona.org/PDF/DadsandDoulas.pdf).
Working with a Doula
Most birth doulas will meet with a couple at least twice during the pregnancy. Prenatal visits may be done in your home or in a public place, depending on your preference. Typically these prenatal visits involve discussions of your birth preferences, practicing comfort measures, discussing your fears or concerns, and a little childbirth education. Most doulas are well-connected in the local birth community and will assist you in finding additional services (chiropractors, lactation consultants, etc.) if needed. If you would like, you can ask your doula to come along with you on a prenatal visit so you can introduce her to your care provider. As a doula, I feel that it is important for one of the prenatal visits to be conducted in the couple’s home so I know how to find them in the middle of the night, we can practice labor positions in their space, they can show me where important supplies are, and so we can discuss other home-related topics that always seem to come up while we are sitting there.
When the big day arrives, I recommend contacting your doula as soon as you think you are in labor. She won’t rush over to you right away (unless your birth is progressing quickly), but the “heads up” enables her to adjust her plans for the day, take a nap, and be in a better position to serve you. I was on my way to visit a farm with my family when I received a text message from a doula client that her water broke a couple weeks before her due date. With this notice, I knew to send my family along and I stayed home and ate a good meal and rested while I waited for the couple to call and ask me to join them. Keep in touch with your doula throughout your labor. Clients always ask me, “When will we know that it is time for you to come over?” My answer, “There’s no magic time. You’ll just know.” And you will!
If you are planning a hospital birth then I advise you having the doula meet you at home before you go to the hospital. (Of course, if things are going quickly or there is an emergency then the doula will meet you there.) By having the doula come to your home you are likely to spend more time laboring in your own comfortable space and be further along when you arrive at the hospital. Also, the doula can assist you with the drive to the hospital, carry your bag, etc.
During your birth, the doula will be with you the entire time. She will be anticipating your needs for food, drink, position changes, bathroom, etc., but don’t hesitate to ask for anything. Some moms have expressed concern about seeming bossy or hurting feelings – no worries. Remember the doula is there to serve you! She will provide Mom and Coach with consistent and continuous support.
Remember that a doula should not practice medicine. Don’t ask her, or allow her, to make a diagnosis or tell you what decisions you should make. Her role is to provide information and answer your questions. For the sake of liability, all medical matters need to be handled by you and your care provider.
After the baby arrives, your doula will stay with you until your family is settled in and breastfeeding is off to a good start. (Usually this is a couple hours.) When I serve as a doula, I like to help clear the space and take any unnecessary items (labor tools) to the couple’s car. Most doulas will check in with you throughout the first couple weeks and will come for a postpartum visit around a week out. The purpose of the postpartum visit is to see how you are recovering and if have any additional needs, and also to help process your birth experience. For my son’s birth, I was in a “labor land” haze during active labor so I really relied on our doula’s feedback to help put my birth story together.
If a family is in need of additional support after the baby’s birth (i.e. cooking, cleaning, baby care, etc.) then they should search for a postpartum doula. Check-in and read Friday's post this week to learn more about postpartum doula care from Jaqueline Norris, owner of Sweet Blessings Doula Services.
What criteria was important for you when you were seeking a doula?
Local Bradley® Doulas
Here is an alphabetical listing of local Bradley Method® instructors who also serve as doulas:
- Victoria Calleja - 623.234.4767 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rachel Davis - 480.330.3070 - email@example.com
- Klarissa Jones - 480.993.4834 - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Crystal Magnuson - 602.320.9999
- Laura Nyman - 801.528.1295 - email@example.com
- Zabrina Pell - 602.743.9890 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Recommended ReadingThe Doula Book: How A Trained Labor Companion Can Help You Have A Shorter, Easier, And Healthier Birth by Marshall Klaus
The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin
Assistant Coach’s Manual published by the American Academy of Husband Coached Childbirth. (Contact your Bradley Method® instructor to purchase or borrow a copy.) This is a great resource for friends and family who will be attending your birth!
About the author:
Rachel Davis is the mother of two joyful children, a son born naturally in the hospital and a daughter born in the water at home. She is also a Bradley Method® instructor and birth doula in downtown Phoenix. Her next Bradley Method® series will be offered on Tuesday evenings from January 10, 2012 through April 3, 2012.
To contact Rachel, please visit www.birthandearth.com.
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.
December 5, 2011 to
February 20, 2012
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