What is a Doula?
If you're anything like me, you often turn to Google with your questions initially. In fact, that may even be how you found this blog post!
In that case, I'm glad you're here because that means that you realized, like me, that a simple Google of the definition of "doula" doesn't really tell you squat about what a doula is.
You see, according to Google, a doula is:
"a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born."
...but this definition is almost identical to that of "midwife." And I can assure you, doulas are not midwives.
So, the question remains: what is a doula?
1. A doula is a person...
not always a woman, who may provide emotional, physical, and educational support to a client during pregnancy and labor, as well as after the baby is born.
2. Not all doulas are trained.
While the act of doula-ing is nothing new (the term itself was first used in a 1969 study, but the role has been being filled for...well, quite possibly forever), the doula industry is still unregulated, i.e. there aren't set standards that govern the field and those who choose to work in it. This means that there isn't specific schooling or required training that a doula must attend in order to work as a doula, nor are there licenses or the like that must be maintained.
There are, however, doulas who choose to pursue training and certification through one of the many certifying bodies that have sprung up over time. Each organization sets their own standards and requirements for training, certification, and the like.
3. Doulas provide support to birthing clients and their families.
More specifically, doulas offer educational, emotional, and physical support throughout the birthing process.
Wait, physical support? Emotional Support? Really?
YES! The reality is that pregnancy and childbirth bring a whole host of new physical AND emotional sensations. Your doula can help you wade through those. Through talk and touch (or whatever methods you are comfortable with), your doula attunes to your needs and responds accordingly.
As for the educational support, ideally the doula you hire is staying up to date on the current best-practices and recommendations, and is also familiar with different hospital and birthing center (if that is where you choose to give birth) policies and procedures that you may encounter during your labor, birth, and postpartum stay. If so, your doula should be able to answer many of your questions and/or direct you to resources and your medical provider to ensure you are as informed as you want to be.
That last bit is key:
4. A doula's support is about YOU.
A doula's goal is (or should be) to help you write a birth story you're proud of, whatever that looks like for you! You want an epidural? Great! Your doula likely has some tricks up their sleeves to help you stay calm and comfortable during and after administration, and to help things keep moving! You're planning a cesarean birth? Your doula has your back and will still be there before, during, and after your birth to support you. You're pursuing an unmedicated vaginal delivery? That's right: your doula will support you. The doula isn't there to tell you what to do or how to do it, they are just there to help you do it your way!
5. Doulas are not advocates...
but they can empower you to advocate for yourself. In fact, much of your prenatal appointments with your doula will likely be preparing you to do just that! From discovering your own birthing philosophy and actually building a birth plan based on your preferences, to practicing different coping techniques and even conversations you may have, your doula can help you develop the tools you need to build a birth space you can thrive in.
When it finally comes time to give birth, It's still your story to write: your voice is the one that should be heard! But you can count on your doula to be there behind you the whole time, offering unwavering support and saving space just for you.
Want to know more about what a doula does and why you may want one for your birth? Drop me a line. Let's chat. :)