Written by Samantha Martin, BBCI, BBCD
A doula may also be described as a labor assistant or birth coach. They are trained and likely certified with an organization such as Birth Boot Camp. A professional doula provides many benefits, not only to the birthing person but also to the birth partner and even close family members.
The doula role has been around for years, decades, even centuries! It has been shaped into a career for many and this type of professional support has grown in popularity over the last decade.
Research, both scientific and anecdotal, show that a doula can be an essential part of a birth team, not only during birth but also prenatally and postnatally.
The role of a doula
Throughout a persons journey into parenthood (pregnancy, birth/labor, and postpartum) a doula provides informational, emotional, and physical support. Although the offerings of a doula to an expectant family are similar it may look slightly different for each family depending on their unique needs or desires.
During pregnancy… the doula can help guide you through the many choices you have leading up to your birth so you can go into birth prepared and confident. *Recognize a doula is not a childbirth educator and a class such as Birth Boot Camp compliments the doulas role.
During birth… a doula might provide reassuring words or affirmations, massage, reminders or suggestions, and other gestures discussed prenatally. They are a part of your team, an asset to both you and your partner.
During postpartum… your doula will be available to process your birth, answer questions, validate feelings, and overall guide you through your fourth trimester. Many doulas have additional training too, such as lactation education to better support you during your breast/chest-feeding experience, even if you decide to pump or bottle feed.
Benefits for your partner
When people think of a doula their mind often goes to the pregnant or laboring person and rightly so; a doula DOES significantly benefit the pregnant/laboring person. However, don’t forget about the other person(s) involved in this pregnancy as a doula can be of great benefit to them too!
The presence of a calm, knowledgeable, skilled doula is oftentimes a huge relief to a partner. A doula can provide the partner with reminders of what they learning in their childbirth class, what was discussed during birth planning visits, and suggestions on how they can support their loved one. I believe the benefits also lie in the fact that a doula being a part of the team will allow for the comfort in leaving their loved one in labor to care for themselves (have a meal/snack, rest, use the restroom, etc.) or other siblings for short periods of time.
Benefits for you and your baby
Doula supported birth can improve the overall birth experience and the outcome for the baby. Research shows that the presence of a doula can decrease possible interventions such as cesarean-section or the use of Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin hormone) and the use of pain medication (eg; epidural, fentanyl) that could potentially cross the placenta to your baby. The same research also shows a decrease in a baby’s risk of low Apgar scores (baby’s overall health - Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration).
All in all
A doula is beneficial to the whole family! They are a professional, trained to guide you and your partner, can hold space for you, and will remain a familiar presence throughout your entire experience, from pregnancy to postpartum.
Where to find a doula?
Finding a doula may be a bit daunting, especially if you are new to the profession and have few people in your life that have hired a doula themselves. A great starting point is your community; ask your friends, childbirth educator, your midwife, or anyone who is familiar with doulas and can help guide you in the right direction.
A great start is the Birth Boot Camp directory or contacting us here at Minnesota Birth Boot Camp.
You may also find your local birth community host "meet the doula" type events to meet and interview doulas that might works best with your family.