“A doula is a non-medical support person who provides information, emotional and physical support during pregnancy, birth and labour.”
But what does that actually mean? I could list all the different roles and services I provide, but does that really answer your question? What people really want to know is “what would a doula mean to them”. I’ve found that “information, emotional and physical support” means something different for every woman and her evolving situation. I’m sure if you asked each of my clients what my role was on their birth team, they’d each have their own take on what they found most helpful. Many of them would also say that they thought they would need me for XYZ reasons, but ended up needing me for ABC!
“Labour Coach” – well, yes. And it’s a very important part of my skill set. I’ve spent many, many hours of professional development over the last 7 years learning ways to support women during labour. Yet support during labour is only part of what I provide as a doula. I spend at least 10 – 15 hours with a woman during pregnancy. I will provide education, support and take the time to get to know the woman and her family. This is longer than some labours! Not to mention around 4-8 hours of postnatal support.
“Sounding Boards” – I use this term often. Women like to discuss the information they read, and hear, to reach a decision. I am often the only person on the support team that is able to be completely neutral and non-judgmental. This means that I am able to reflect back to a client ALL her options without personal ideals or policies & procedures influencing the discussion. I am able to listen to a woman and reflect to her the information she has read and the recommendations she has been given to help her find the choice that she is most comfortable with. Yet that certainly doesn’t cover all the physical preparation and support during the pregnancy year either.
“Childbirth Educators that Go to the Birth” - Perhaps. But saying so devalues the role of childbirth educators. Some doulas will provide comprehensive childbirth education in addition to their other support. Other doulas will expect a woman to access independent childbirth education classes, with the doula providing a few hours during pregnancy to become familiar with the woman and her birth plan. There’s a huge difference between 12 hours of CBE and 4-6 hours with a doula going over a birth plan. Of course, this doesn’t even address the important support that is provided in home once the baby arrives. On the other hand, a doula during labour cannot be replaced by CBE classes during pregnancy. How many women have you spoken to say that they (and their partners) forgot everything once she was in labour? A doula will be there to remind you and help you put into practice all that you have learned. And an experienced doula will also have an extensive skill set of other ideas and techniques, that Childbirth Education classes don’t have the time to cover. And again, that doesn’t even touch on all the other background support that a doula provides to the woman, her partner and the overall birth team.
Perhaps a good way to explain a doula’s role is in comparison to another service.
Wedding Planners are well known and can be compared to doulas in a number of ways:
- We listen to your hopes and your fears to that we can guide you to resources that you will find most helpful. There is a minefield of information out there and not all of it is good or relevant to each woman.
- On the same note, we know all the major players in the region and how they work. We share our wealth of knowledge with each client so that she can put together her ideal birth team.
- We get to know the woman and her family well enough so that on the big day we can be a person who knows when to blend in the background or to step in with some helpful suggestions.
- We know her Plan A well enough that we can quietly “hold the space” i.e. we’ll be orchestrating and providing support in the background to keep the client on Plan A. All the while you can focus on what you need to do – releasing, letting go and getting on with birthing your baby.
- If things vary from Plan A, we can assist the woman in the moment to obtain all the information she needs to make an informed choice and one you will feel comfortable with. And then we will support her in whatever she decides.
- We do not replace any other member of the birth team, especially partners. Instead, as part of supporting you on Baby Day, we will support those around you so that you can all have the most memorable experience of your little one’s birth.