But What Does a Doula DO?

The most commonly asked question (following after "A Do-WHAT?") is what does a doula do? Recognizing that I am still at the very, very start of this journey to becoming a doula, this is my current view of what a doula does! 🙂

- I will meet with you and your partner during your pregnancy to ensure we will be able to work well together as a team. As moms are often very "engaged" (i.e. focused on working and not going to answer questions!) in the process of birth, it's good for the doula and dad to be able to feel comfortable communicating and working together as they focus on the goal of helping mom. As a doula I will talk with you about your hopes and goals for the birth, things you may desire or hope to avoid, any questions or concerns you have, and I will help refer you to resources or provide information for you as needed.

- You will fill out an intake form and we will discuss several questions such as how do you respond to pain or stress? What techniques have you found useful to cope with pain in the past? Do you prefer light or heavy touch? Are you comfortable with your doula providing physical comfort such as counter pressure or massage or would you prefer I show your partner some techniques to use on you? What were your previous experiences with birth? Are there any issues I should be aware of related to your physical health? Your emotional well being? What do you visualize my role to be? Will extended family or any friends be involved with your birth? What support networks do you have in place? (See, so many questions!!) But by asking these questions I can help YOU assess what resources you have, what concerns you may have, and help you discover your options.

- We will discuss what childbirth preparation you've had, any books you've read or classes you're attending. While a doula is with you through childbirth, she does NOT replace a childbirth preparation course! I can provide class information in your area and some great books to read for you to read, but I am not a certified childbirth educator and our meetings could not possibly contain the expanse of knowledge you'll gain through a course. As a doula I have studied childbirth and as a mother I've experienced childbirth, but your birth experience will be far more positive when you've studied it and are comfortable understanding at least the basics!

- I can suggest resources to help you create a formal birth plan or a simple rough concept of what you would like (or not like!) in your birth. It's important to spend some time thinking about your birth, articulating this to your partner, and sharing it with your care providers. You do not have to provide a written, multi-page birth plan outlining every possible contingency! Birth is always unpredictable and a birth "plan" is really an expression of your priorities and hopes, as nothing will go exactly as planned! But do spend some time visualizing and discussing what you would like. I can provide worksheets listing some typical hospital policies so you can spend time in your pregnancy learning more, rather than having to make a last minute decision at the hospital! (This includes issues such as Vitamin K, Hep B vaccine, eye ointment, circumcision, continuous fetal monitoring, epidurals & other medication options, etc.)

- Throughout your pregnancy (and for the first few weeks postpartum) I will be available by phone and email as any questions come up. You will keep me updated on any issues or concerns in your pregnancy and we'll review your birth plans.

- During your birth I will ideally join you when active labor has begun and remain with you through the birth. My job during labor is to assess how you are doing and determine in what ways your partner or I can better help you. Is the environment calming or are there distractions I can eliminate? Are you eating/drinking/staying hydrated? Are you using the restroom? Do you need to change positions? How are you feeling emotionally? Do you want a hot or cold pack? Are there scents you enjoy? Would massage or deep pressure help? Would you like to walk? Has your partner had a chance to use the restroom or eat something? Was there music you wanted playing during the labor & birth? I will also be jotting down a rough timeline and notes, something I will write up and provide to you after the birth. (It's a wonderful addition to your baby's album to have the record of their arrival!) I will help you remember any questions you had for your care team, and if you are not able to communicate well I will remind your partner of your wishes so they may speak in your behalf.

- After the birth I will assist you with breast feeding, help get you settled in and fed, and will leave you for some quiet time to enjoy your new addition. I will check in with you by phone and/or email in the first few days after birth to see how you are doing physically, how nursing is going, and how you are handling the emotional adjustment of postpartum! We will schedule a follow up visit in your home at that time so I can come answer any other questions, provide the timeline from my notes of your birth, and talk over your birth story.

- While I am not a professional photographer, if you are comfortable and request it I will take photos at your birth as circumstances allow. Ensuring your emotional and physical needs are being met is my first priority, photos are secondary. 🙂 If you would like professional birth photographs I can provide the websites of birth photographers in the area. I've used two personally and they were able to capture the experience in a beautiful, discrete, and memorable way. Most also offer maternity and newborn photo shoots.

- It is very, very important to me that new mothers receive support especially in the areas of nursing and emotional health. Nursing can be very challenging and I am creating a list of local resources to provide lactation support, breast pump information, and support groups. My doula training includes breast feeding education and I am pursuing further coursework so I can better support nursing mothers, but I am not a certified lactation consultant. I will make sure you have contact numbers for excellent consultants in the area. I will provide initial assistance and some trouble shooting, along with excellent books you should consider reading during pregnancy to be prepared.

- Because postpartum depression is so very common, I will also provide information about this to you and your partner during your pregnancy. There are wonderful materials that can discuss warning signs and things to discuss with your partner before and after the birth. Please, please ask for help if you have any concerns about how you are feeling and I will help connect you to professional resources.

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