Frequently Asked Questions
Q: We are wondering about the role of a Birth Doula in relation to the birthing woman's partner. How does that work?
A: Understandably, some partners feel concerned that a doula might be an intrusion in an intimate experience, or take away from his/her role of support during the labor process. Please rest easy, though--our primary goal as doulas is to support a couple so that they can have their needs met both individually and as loving partners. Doula support should serve only to enhance a couple's connection, never interfere with it. This might mean that I guide a partner in a comfort measure or labor position he/she may be uncertain about; or I go get a partner food or drink so that he/she can stay fortified to support the laboring mama; or I support the mama fully while partner takes a shower or naps. A doula can provide knowledge on the labor process and medical procedures and serve as liaison between you and medical staff so that a partner can relax and simply be present as his/her baby enters into the world.
Q. There are so many things to consider! It's hard to know what is accurate information, and we hardly have any time with our care provider. How can a Doula be of help?
A. As your Doula and a Lamaze-trained Childbirth Educator, I provide unbiased, evidence-based information about the childbirth process and the various choices you may face before, during and after your birth. Depending on your concerns and level of knowledge, we can discuss (by phone, email and in person), such topics as home vs hospital birth; the prospect of a scheduled induction; signs of actual labor and when to go to the hospital; and birth choices that may affect breastfeeding, For matters beyond my scope of practice (homeopathy or accupuncture for example) I can refer you to very good practitioners.
Q: As a Birth Doula, what does it actually mean to "advocate" for a client?
A. This is an excellent question, and something that is frequently unclear--or at least can be challenging to navigate--for both Doula and the laboring woman. Personally, I prefer the word guardian over advocate, as it feelsl less adversarial and more protective and peaceful.
Often, more so than any other person on your birth team, your Doula is the one who has your and only your specific birth wishes upper most in her mind, and is committed to helping make sure your wishes are honored. We are also frequently the only birth professionals who have been with you continuously from the very beginning, as nurses come and go and change shifts, and OBs and midwives juggle multiple tasks and/or patients. As such, we hold a unique position on your team.
As the guardian of your wishes and your birth process, I seek to make sure you understand the choices/decisions being presented to you; I support you in asking questions that will facilitate your knowledge and understanding; and I gently and respectfully work to both establish and maintain awareness that this is your experience, your birth, and that you are actually the most important person in the room! I do not speak for you, nor am I aggressive toward any medical staff or anyone else who is part of your birth team because that is neither empowering for you, nor in any way appropriate for such a sacred space and experience.
Q. What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
A. A midwife's ultimate responsibility is to ensure the health and safety of the mother and child. In a homebirth setting she may also provide considerable emotional and physical support, but at the hospital, that is really not her role. Nurse midwives in hospitals typically embrace the "midwifery model of care", which is rooted in the efficacy of natural childbirth and therefore less interventionist-oriented. A doula is trained in the labor and birth process and in offering techniques to support the laboring woman throughout the entire birth experience. Her role is that of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental support.
Q. Is Home birth safe?
A. This question has been answered affirmatively many times and is grounded in solid research! Homebirth has been shown to be a safe option for healthy women and healthy babies whose normal pregnancies are full-term at the start of labor, and who are monitored and attended by professional midwives. In a study published in the 2005 British Medical Journal of more than 5,000 women who planned to have a home birth with Certified Professional Midwives in the United States and Canada, the outcomes for mothers and babies were the same as for low-risk mothers giving birth in hospitals, but with MANY fewer interventions, including epidural, episiotomy, forceps, vacuum delivery, and significantly lower cesarean section rates for mothers who did transer to hospital (15% transfer rate overall)
Q. What if I'm planning on having an epideral--is it still valuable to have a doula?
A. Yes, you will benefit from the support and information of a trained Doula. Here's why: 1) you may be laboring at home for quite a while before heading to the hospital. You can have your Doula with you there and/or call her throughout early labor; 2) even once at the hospital, hospital staff may very well wait until you are in active labor before administering an epideral, so you could already be having powerful contractions by then; 3) it may take a while for an epideral to be administered from the time it is ordered, so this could extend the time you are in need of labor support; 4) during 2nd stage, you will still be pushing your baby out--and may have a lot of sensation--so again, labor support is still very important.