If you’re thinking about hiring a doula for your birth or to support you in the days and weeks following the birth this post is for you!
Firstly you might be wondering: what does a doula actually DO? Perhaps you’ve read about doulas in an article, or been recommended one by a friend, but what can this person actually offer you, infact, what are you getting for your money when you invest in a doula?
Doulas are NOT midwives. They are not even medical professionals in their doula role. Doulas are peer supporters. Many have given birth themselves and want to share their experience and support, and almost all have completed at least some formal doula training which should encompass basic support skills, birth physiology, active listening skills and a thorough up to date understanding of what’s going on in the birth world (policies, interventions, your rights and options).
Many doulas also have years of parenting experience, and a plethora of other skills ranging from previous medical or midwifery training, to counselling, alternative health, photography and many many other backgrounds.
A doula should not arrive with a preconceived idea or an agenda for your birth. Her job is to offer impartial, evidence based information to help you decide what is right for you and your family. As an outsider, she should not have an emotional bias as to what choices you should make, and she should never bring her own fears or experiences into the equation. She is there to support you as your discover what you want out of your experience.
She should however have plenty of information, ideas and knowledge as to what is possible for you.
Your ideal antenatal support will consist of a minimum of 2 appointments, so that you can get to know each other, and make sure you and your partner or birth partner are comfortable in her presence. She will also talk through your wishes and plans with you so that she is able to ensure that you are in control of any choices that come up on the big day, and that she is aware of your preferences and deal breakers.
If you have any particular concerns, she should be able to talk through these with you, and point you to relevant information to help you get an in depth understanding of your options. Most doulas are available for phonecalls or email support and can talk through any emotional or practical issues that may come up.
When you feel baby is on the way, your doula should be available and “on call” for you from 2 weeks before your due date, and will usually expect you to let her know if you think things are starting. If she’s nearby, she should be able to pop over and visit you or have a good chat on the phone. She can help you decide the appropriate time to get to your birth space, she'll join you when you are ready, and can guide you through what to expect when you arrive there.
During labour, your doula should already know you well enough to understand your wishes and keep your birth space calm, focussed and loving. If you are the kind of mama who wants massaging and cuddles she will be aware of that, but if you want to sit alone in a dark corner, she will recognise and protect that space for you. If things slow down, she should be able to help you figure out what’s going on and how to go forward, and if you are facing medical choices your doula should be able to talk through all the options with you and your partner so that at no point during the process are you forced to make a decision you don’t fully understand. Your doula should never speak for you, but should make sure that you have full understanding and control at all times.
Most doulas will stay with you after the birth, until you and baby are tucked up and fed. You might choose to book a postnatal support package with your doula, which can consist of whatever you need to manage the first hours, days and weeks after birth. If you have had a surgical birth, for example, you may need someone to help pass you the baby for feeds, help with changes etc. Many doulas can help you get started with breastfeeding, or if you are bottle feeding she can assist with the feeding routine while you recover, its all dependent on your needs and wishes.
If you are beginning to see the value of having a doula in your birth team and would like to know how to choose from those who are working in your area, here is a list of 10 interview questions put together from years of both working as a doula, and employing their services, to help make sure you are choosing a doula that is the right fit for you and your family.
1. Do you have any doula training and if so which course(s)?
2. Do you support any particular birth plans in particular eg. Homebirth/ hospital birth?
3. What antenatal support do you offer?
4. Have you supported different birth scenarios before, and does your support differ dependent on our circumstances?
5. Do you offer any complementary support for example massage therapy, homeopathy or other types of practical support?
6. Are calls and texts included in your support package?
7. How do you ensure that my wishes are met at the time of birth?
8. How does your on call period work?
9. Do you offer postnatal services?
10. Are you able to offer feeding support?