March 22nd – March 28th is World Doula Week. We can’t say enough how much we respect and honor the work that doulas do to support moms, partners and their babies. The world is a better place for having them in our lives! In celebration, we wanted to take this time to highlight the positive role a doula can play in your labor and delivery. Below is a guest post from CAPPA and DONA trained doula, Ashley Franz.
Having experienced what a doula is from both my birth experiences with my children and my experience as a practicing doula, I am compelled to believe that the doula role is nothing short of essential in the modern world of birth.
In my view, these are the 5 reasons a mother-to-be needs a doula at her birth:
1. Doulas promote biological nurturing.
I don’t know a single doula that isn’t very knowledgeable about breastfeeding, the importance of immediate and constant proximity for the mother-baby dyad, and the urgency for immediate skin to skin contact following birth. Doulas are not only often the only ones educating new mothers on these infinitely important issues, but they are also providing the required help, support and equipment needed to make biological nurturing easier.
2. Doulas support partners.
How many times have super-supportive dads nervously rung their hands while being dragged to an interview with a doula saying, “But if you’re her support person now, then what’s MY role going to be?” The answer is probably about the same number of times they’ve said, “Boy, am I glad you were there to help me help her.” Because, in the modern world, most expectant dads (and moms!) have never witnessed even one birth before their own! Having an experienced and knowledgeable “little shadow” in the room all of a sudden becomes invaluable once active labor kicks into high gear. My favorite ways to support dads/partners are: giving suggestions on how to support mom during labor (for example, rather than holding a cold rag on her head myself, I’d suggest that dad do that and I would go get a fresh one when needed), reassuring dads during birth when they get scared, listening to their concerns, and supporting the mom while he takes a bathroom/food/breather break. Some dads need to walk out and cry or just take a few minutes and then can come back stronger and ready to support Mom even better.
3. Doulas increase favorable outcomes and decrease unfavorable outcomes.
Need I say more? Prior to birth, potential birth choices come up and expecting parents must think about it, decide on a preference, and then take steps to achieve the outcome they desire. With support and encouragement from the doula, they begin to educate themselves, form an opinion, and go for what they want. Ultimately, whether the expecting parents achieve the actual outcomes they’d hoped for, they tend to rest easier in the knowledge that they did everything they could, and they end up feeling more satisfied and happier than those who left everything about the birth out of their own hands.
4. Doulas are super handy at births!
Doctors and nurses are great, but they have other patients to attend to during your birth. Partners are great, but they are more than likely not all that knowledgeable about birth or experienced at supporting a laboring woman. Enter: Doulas. Absolute super heroes when it comes to active labor. Even if all doulas did was whisper the phrase, “This is exactly what’s supposed to be happening,” they would be worth it.
5. Doulas send you off to parenthood with resources.
As a doula, I make sure to provide access to certain books containing information about biological nurturing or “natural parenting”. I also provide information about certain kinds of breastfeeding and babywearing products, which may not be widely known about , such as woven wraps or ring slings like the Maya Wrap or the NüRoo Pocket, to maximize postpartum skin-to-skin contact. Need the phone number for a great local lactation consultant? A babywearing support group? The La Leche League? Post-partum mood disorder help? Parenting support groups or classes? Parenting books? Mommy and Me Yoga classes? Doulas have great connections, recommendations and resources! Having a doula means you now have great connections, recommendations and resources too!”
Ashley Franz, MSW, is a CAPPA and DONA trained doula. She is a local Leader and certified “Attached at the Heart” Parenting Educator in White County, AR for Attachment Parenting International and a Certified Babywearing Educator for Babywearing International. Ashley has four children, ages 8, 7, 4, and 6 months.