Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions
What is a birth doula?
A birth doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth.
What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?
A doula and midwife play very different roles. A midwife is a woman’s primary caregiver instead of having a doctor. She provides clinical care and monitors the health of the baby and mother. The midwife delivers the baby, and is responsible for Mom and Baby’s wellbeing. Midwives attends home births, hospital births and if you have a birthing centre in your area, they attend those as well. In Central Alberta we are lucky that the midwives have hospital privileges – this allows women who live outside the area the midwives can travel to still have midwifery care and deliver with a midwife at a hospital.
A doula provides ONLY non-clinical care. Because she is not clinically responsible, she is free to tend to the woman’s need for information, emotional support, and physical comfort, as well as provide support for the woman’s partner and family. Doula and midwifery care complement each other very well.
Does a doula replace nursing staff?
Doulas do not replace nurses or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals.
What effects does the presence of a doula have on birth outcomes?
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
- tends to result in shorter labours with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction
- reduces the requests for pain medication and epidurals, as well as the incidence of cesareans
What effects does the presence of a doula have on the mother?
When a doula is present during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression.
What effects do the presence of doulas have on babies?
Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.
Does a doula make decisions on my behalf?
A doula does not make decisions for clients or intervene in their clinical care. She provides informational and emotional support, while respecting a woman’s decisions.
Do I need a doula if I have a partner who will be at the birth?
A doula is supportive to both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth within his/her comfort.
I am planning a homebirth with a midwife. I feel like I would really like to have the support of a doula too. Will you come to my homebirth?
We LOVE homebirths! In this case, our role is different. In the hospital we protect the birthing space from too many interruptions, answer questions, liaise with the staff, etc. At a home birth, we provide continuous labour support so the midwife can get some rest if she wants. We want to ensure she is ell rested to attend to any medical issues that may arise and be alert for the birth of your baby. Doulas do not have the clinical responsibility that midwives do, so it is less important that we be well rested. We can also prepare snacks, clean up the birth pool after, throw in a load of laundry and do a little tidy so you wake up to a tidier home and don’t have to worry about that – this leave you and your partner with more time to enjoy your new bundle of joy!
Do doulas only support “all natural” births? I think I may want an epidural.
Doulas attend any sort of births and support your choices. While we believe the majority of women can give birth with minimal interventions, it is up to you what you choose. So if you want an epidural, we can explain the pros and cons for you and let you make the choice that is best for you without any judgement.
Do doulas attend planned C-section births?
Yes! If you need to have a C-section, a doula’s help can be very valuable. If you do not have a partner, or if there is a reason your partner cannot join you in the operating room, a doula can go in the operating room with you and provide support during the birth. If your partner goes in with you, a doula can support your partner with the baby while you are in recovery and help him/her with skin to skin and once you are back from recovery we can assist with breastfeeding. Central Alberta Doulas has experience with planned cesareans and our doulas have gone in the operating room when partners help uncomfortable going themselves.
I would love to have a doula attend my birth, but my partner is concerned that he will feel excluded.
A doula’s job is to actually make your partner’s experience of your birth more enjoyable. It can be hard for a partner to provide continuous support, be the sole support during labour and delivery, get more water, another pillow and rub a back! We can fill in the gaps as needed. If your partner needs a break, we can jump in and support you while he/she gets some food or takes a walk. If you and your partner are doing well, we will make sure the water cup is full, the room remains your calming space and take some pictures for you. While many partners are very enthusiastic about being hands on during labour (and if they are, we absolutely encourage that), some are a little unsure, and struggle with anxiety as to how they’ll be able to cope with the stress, never mind actually be helpful. Sometimes they are just not sure what to do to help. In that case we can remind them of things we have talked about in our prenatal meetings, like different positions for labouring or comfort measures.
Doulas often “doula” the partner! By making sure his/her physical needs are met and his/her concerns addressed, he/she can ease into his role of being there for his partner however she requests. If the doula is relaxed, the partner usually senses it’s okay for him/her to relax too. If he/she has questions that need answering, the doula will make sure they get answered.
We also respect privacy. We know that often the couple wants to spend some time alone together in labour. In this case, we are happy to make sure the staff leave you alone for a bit or we can go for a little break ourselves, we are only a text or call away if needed.
We are not kidding when we say at the end of a long birth, it is often the fathers who come up to us with tears in their eyes, give us big hugs, and say, “I couldn’t have done it without you!”
The wellbeing of the mother’s partner is as important to us as her wellbeing, as it is he/she who has to help take care of her afterwards. That is easier done when he/she is relaxed. Our presence helps the partner take on a more meaningful, connected role.
I want to stay at home for as long as possible before I go to the hospital. Will you come to my home and support me there?
Yes, depending upon where you live and how advanced it seems your labour is, we will support you at home. We can help you determine when it’s a good time to head to the hospital by watching how your labour is progressing As doulas we do not do vaginal checks, so we go by how you are handling the contractions, listening to you – it’s amazing how much we can tell by the way you get thru a contraction. We can then go with you and provide support in your vehicle if you really need us to (depending on where you live) or we can follow you to the hospital in our own vehicle.