What does a birth doula do?

What does a Birth Doula do? Blog BirthFlower Mexico City Bilingual Doula

Many people, from those expecting a baby to those who are merely curious, ask me the big question: what is it exactly that a doula does?

It’s quite tricky to describe the entirety of what a doula can bring to your pregnancy and birthing experience, because it is so broad, and at the same time so specific to what each birthing person and family needs. An important part of our prenatal appointments is for me to get to know you and your preferences – maybe you don’t like to be touched, or you want to use visualisations. Maybe you find visualisations pointless, and just want to be factually prepared. My support is completely adapted to what you need most to achieve a calm, confident state both whilst pregnant and during labour and the time immediately after.

I’m going to outline my three main areas of support – PHYSICAL, MENTAL and EDUCATIONAL – and also, how I work with the Birth Partner – below. These are the kinds of methods I can use to prepare, empower and support you.

PHYSICAL

During pregnancy, I can:
◇  Ask you about how you are feeling in your body.
◇  Pinpoint any areas of discomfort or problems.
◇  Work with the birth ball and rebozo to find relaxation positions to give comfort in the 3rd trimester.
◇  Practise breathing exercises for relaxation and labour preparation.
◇  Refer you to an appropriate specialist for any issues (physio, acupuncture, massage etc).

During labour, I can:
◇  Help you into positions that you feel comfortable in. Help you to shift positions to assist the baby’s descent.
◇  Use comforting touch massage to ease the pain of contractions.
◇  Apply warm compresses or cool cloths to soothe you.
◇  Press acupressure points to relieve nausea, and soothe contractions.
◇  Remind you to focus on your breathing, and assist in keeping you centred.
◇  Use the rebozo to give relief and to help baby move into a favourable position.
◇  Make sure you use the bathroom, eat if you’re hungry, and drink if you’re thirsty.
◇  Notice the atmosphere and set up of the birth space and adjust it to be conducive to a calm and focussed birth (lower lighting, less noise, etc).

MENTAL

During pregnancy, I can:
◇  Listen to your concerns, fears, questions and feelings surrounding the birth and new motherhood.
◇ Work through those concerns or fears with you until you feel confident.
◇ Show you visualisations, affirmations, and key words to build your belief in yourself.
◇  Show you ways to arm yourself for unpredictable outcomes.
◇  Empower you to feel confident in making yourself heard in the birth space.
◇  Be non-judgemental regarding any decision or choice that you make.
◇  Support those decisions and choices fully.

During labour, I can:
◇  Remind you of your strength and your ability.
◇ Use your affirmations and visualisations with you to achieve calm and the ability to cope with contractions.
◇  Be there with you, by your side, to be a calm, consistent and grounding presence (sometimes that’s all you need!)
◇  Encourage you when you are feeling like it’s all too much.
◇  Believe you and support you when you voice your preferences.
◇  Be non-judgemental regarding any decision or choice that you make.

EDUCATIONAL

During pregnancy, I can:
◇  Share with you my knowledge of pregnancy physiology (your body and how it works while pregnant)
◇  Teach you how labour works, from muscles to hormones to positioning of the baby
◇  Go through step by step the stages of labour and what to expect during each
◇  Talk with you about the postpartum period, what to prepare for, how you might feel and what you can do to make this time as enjoyable as possible
◇  Teach you relaxation techniques to utilise during labour and postpartum

During labour, I can:
◇  Be aware of what’s going on with your body and your baby and can let you know what’s happening (for example: “your baby is turning through the pelvis”, “the doctor is preparing to give you a shot”, “you’re feeling shaky because of the drop in hormones”)
◇  Can answer any questions you have.
◇  Back off with the info! Nobody needs a know-it-all in the birth room. Most of our educational process is done during prenatal appointments.

THE BIRTH PARTNER (husband/wife/partner/friend/family member)

During pregnancy, I can:
◇  Include them in our prenatal appointments so they feel fully part of the process.
◇  Demonstrate relaxation techniques so they can use these to assist you.
◇  Teach comforting touch, pressure points and methods for pain relief.
◇  Address any concerns, fears, or questions so they feel confident and prepared.
◇  Outline the logistics and processes of the birth space; what is likely to happen, what people will do, what to have ready.
◇  Make a plan with them about what to do when the time comes.

During labour, I can:
◇  Encourage them to support you in the ways we have practised.
◇  Guide them to feel confident in their support of you.
◇  Allow them to rest, eat or get some fresh air if needed, without leaving you alone.
◇  Make sure they are aware of all progress and any developments.
◇  Step back and give them space to be with you.

So, as you can see, a doula’s scope is quite big and of course varies greatly depending on your needs. But perhaps most importantly, the main thing doulas can do is simply BE WITH YOU, non-judgementally, to support you and your decisions. It sounds like a flimsy thing, but having someone there with you – who you know has all your best interests at heart and wants to see you happy and empowered – that really is the most valuable thing a doula can provide.

Image by Carrie Salazar.

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