So you’ve heard that everybody is hiring a Doula for their birth or postpartum recovery, but what the heck is a Doula anyway? There is a wealth of information available, and some very prominent myths, too. So here’s the scoop on what’s what with Doulas.
MYTH #1 – A Doula is a cheaper version of a Midwife.
Totally different fields. Midwives are focused on the medical care of mothers and babies, while Doulas are focused on the emotional care of families. A Doula is a trained, experienced, professional who can support you physically, emotionally and informationally throughout your pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. There’s a lot of psychology that goes into Doula work, and quite a bit of massage, too!
MYTH #2 – A Doula is only valuable if you’re planning a homebirth or an un-medicated birth.
Doulas help families with all birth plans! Most of the women in the United States will choose to labor with an epidural. However, epidurals don’t always mean “pain free.” There are some important considerations for your epidural, and how to navigate your labor with the limited mobility that comes with epidural use. Most of our clients birth in the hospital, although we also assist clients birth at home or in birth centers.
MYTH #3 – Doulas will argue with your care provider.
Yikes! When you are in the middle of contractions, the last thing you want is an argument in the labor room. When the birth room is filled with tension, your body produces more adrenaline and cortisol, the hormones that will STOP your labor. Not good! We want to keep your labor flowing with a nice, peaceful, rhythm, so we are trained in multiple communication styles in order to facilitate open dialogue and cooperation among everyone on the birth team. Granted, there are some unprofessional Doulas out there who cause a ruckus, and you don’t want them throwing monkey wrenches into the gears while you’re in labor, so look for a PROFESSIONAL Doula.
MYTH #4 – I’m having a planned Cesarean birth, a Doula can’t help me.
There are so many ways that a Doula can help you prepare for a beautiful Cesarean birth experience. She can meet with you prenatally to help you prepare for the day of your Cesarean (there’s a LOT of preparation that goes into it) and help you find answers for all of your questions. Then on the day of the surgery, she can either meet you before and after your Cesarean, or she can go into the operating room with you. You’ll need to square it away with your OB and the anesthesiologist first. If your Doula attends you in the O.R., she can provide a great deal of comfort during the prep, incision, birth, and closure. Then she can help you in the recovery room to do skin-to-skin bonding with your baby or breastfeeding.
MYTH #5 – My partner can provide all the comfort I need during my birth.
When I see a partner who is dedicated to being the primary support person for a mother, and is educated in the different methods of birth, anatomical processes, and comfort measures, AND feels empowered to be fully emotionally present for the mother, I AM THRILLED! In that case, your Doula can work around the edges and support both of you, making sure that the partner has everything needed to fully support the mother. But most partners are a little concerned about how they’re going to feel on the big day. They’re emotionally invested in this experience and aren’t sure how objective they can be. And they kind of want some nurturing, too! And why not? Come on, this is a big day! So having a professional Doula with you, to support BOTH of you, can result in a very intimate bonding experience for the couple with each other, and with their baby. Same goes for Grandmothers!
MYTH #6 – A Doula is just a little too hippy / alternative / militant / you-name-it
Yeah, there are some out there like that. That’s why it’s so important to find a professional Doula who is well educated in the psychology of labor support and facilitating conversation. She will BECOME what you need during your labor and birth. Want a clinical analyst who can help you decode medical jargon? Got it. Looking for a motherly, nurturing, safe person who will help you feel comfortable and safe? Yes, ma’am. Hippy chick who can sing to you and sway with you for hours while you dance your way through labor? Done. Strong, direct, reassuring pillar of strength to help everyone stick to your plan? Affirmative! A professional Doula uses her communication skills to be what you need her to be for you.
MYTH #7 – Doula support ends right after the birth.
Nope. One of the most fabulous things in the world is leaving the hospital with your babies buckled securely in their car seats, knowing that your Postpartum Doula is going to be waiting for you at home, with a warm meal (one that tastes MUCH better than hospital food), and some nifty strategies for how everyone can really heal comfortably. She can help you during the daytimes, to get feeding patterns established (breast or bottle) in such a way that everyone feels confident. She can help during the nights, to gently guide everyone into healthy sleep habits. Did you know babies can learn bad sleep habits? No bueno. Especially with multiples. Your professional Doula can help you prevent those bumps in the road, or repair sleep problems if they’re already established.
MYTH #8 – A Postpartum Doula is the same as a “baby nurse.”
There’s no accreditation for the term “baby nurse,” and in some states, it’s illegal for a practitioner to call herself a nurse unless she is a Registered Nurse. However, most people who use the term don’t intent to cause confusion. They simply want to provide a night nanny service. The thing to be aware of is that without an accreditation, there’s no way to know if you’re getting an educated, credentialed professional or not. If you find a great night nanny, she’ll probably help get baby into a good sleep pattern, but her care does not extend to the rest of the family the way Postpartum Doula care does. Your Doula will be focused on EVERYONE’S recovery from the birth: baby, mother, partner, extended family, pets, you name it! And her care involves everything from helping you decompress and sort out your feelings after the birth, to light housekeeping and meal prep. The goal is to really NURTURE everyone as they become comfortable in this “new normal.”
Mary C. Stelter is a Certified Labor and Postpartum Doula Trainer, and owns Doulas of Los Angeles, a full service Doula agency offering Labor & Postpartum Doula care, and Whole Woman Consulting to families in the greater L.A. area. She specializes in supporting parents of multiples with sleep and feeding challenges. Mary, and her husband Jared, are the proud parents of 5 children, including a set of identical twin girls.