So perhaps you understand what a doula is, but exactly does a doula do?
1. A doula supports the expectant mother and her partner throughout the pregnancy and is available to answer any questions or concerns about pregnancy, prenatal tests, and birth.
2. A doula meets with the expectant couple, usually in their home, at least once prior to the birth, around 30-35 weeks into the pregnancy.
3. Prior to labor, a doula helps the mother prepare for birth by educating her on what to expect, providing her with a variety of coping strategies, relaxation techniques, and resources.
4. A doula helps the couple to determine their birth preferences by going over the risks, benefits, and alternatives to many of the choices that will be available in the hospital or birthing center.
5. Many doulas have an area or two (or many!) of specific expertise— such as Reiki or Rebozo— and will practice these techniques with the couple prior to birth.
6. A doula makes herself very available in the weeks and days prior to labor, helping the mother stay calm, confident, and relaxed as she awaits for labor to begin.
7. A doula helps the mother determine the difference between false labor and real labor, and often helps to determine when it is appropriate to go to the hospital (if not birthing at home).
8. Once admitted to the hospital or birth center, a doula helps to set and maintain a warm, relaxing birthing environment (many doulas bring LED candles, aromatherapy, and soothing music), so that the mother can labor with a sense of relaxation, calm, and peace.
9. A doula provides continuous face-to-face support, which means that she remains by the mother’s side throughout the entire labor and delivery (unlike hospital staff who come and go, often manage multiple patients, and have shift changes).
10. A doula encourages the partner’s involvement and offers suggestions for the partner to best support the mother (in no way does a doula replace the crucial supportive role of the partner).
11. A doula watches the laboring mother very carefully to sense what she needs as labor progresses, such as hot or cold compresses, massage, acupressure, reassurance and encouragement, and counter-pressure, offering her expertise to ease the sensations of labor.
12. A doula knows when position changes will be the most helpful to the mother and baby and can suggest other changes such as walking, resting, using the tub or shower, eating and drinking, or even sleeping.
13. A doula works with the hospital staff— nursing, midwives, and OB’s— in a collaborative manner to ensure the best care team possible.
14. A doula ensures that the birth preferences are honored and respected, and helps the mother and partner navigate any choices that may arise, ensuring that all choices are fully informed with the risks, benefits, and alternatives clearly explained.
15. Should the need for a cesarean arise, the doula helps the couple navigate and understand this turn in events, helps to prepare the couple for what to expect and offers her support in the OR to help the couple stay as calm, comfortable, and confident as possible.
16. If faced with an induction, a doula offers her expertise on gentle, natural induction methods to help prepare the mother for the smoothest most successful medical induction possible.
17. Once the baby arrives, the doula stays for up to two hours, making sure that breastfeeding gets off to a good start and that the family is settled in and content before departing.
18. A doula remains in close contact in the days and weeks following the birth, offering her support and expertise in breastfeeding, postpartum recovery, and early newborn care.
19. Most doulas come to the couple’s home within 1-2 weeks after delivery to debrief the birthing experience, troubleshoot any breastfeeding difficulty, and to ensure a successful transition into early parenting.
20. Should there be any need for additional support, such as lactation or physical therapy, the doula will provide the necessary referral.
As you can see, a doula’s support is extensive and encompasses many elements. Research shows that women who have doula support are more likely to have satisfying birthing experiences, fewer medical interventions including use of Pitocin and epidurals, reduced risk of cesarean section, and better maternal and fetal outcomes.
Joyful Birthing offers birth doula support to Boston, its North Shore, and surrounding areas. To learn more, see: https://joyful-birthing.com/services/birth-doula-support/