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What Does a Doula Do?

Doula care is shown to improve birth outcomes and increase chances of a positive birth experience. People who gave birth with a doula are more likely to feel satisfied with their birth, and less likely to have unnecessary interventions. The presence of a doula is linked to more favorable birth outcomes, less pain during labor, and lower rates of perinatal mood disorders.

So, what does a doula do?

Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support.

Physical support during pregnancy and birth may include traditional rebozo work, Spinning Babies balance work, massage and soothing touch, and other comfort measures.

Traditional rebozo is used by many doulas. The rebozo is a Mexican shawl, which has traditionally been used by Mexican midwives to support women during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I learned how to use rebozo through the teaching given by Guadalupe Trueba. One of the best know uses of rebozo is manteada - traditional belly massage. Many other uses include using the rebozo to provide counter pressure, assist comfortable laboring positions, and to assist the birthing person's body in opening to encourage an optimal birth. Please visit this link to learn about the cultural significance, traditional practices, and impact of the rebozo.

Spinning Babies balance work is a way of helping the pregnant body align to allow for optimal fetal positioning, productive labor, and optimal birth. I recently attended a Spinning Babies training to perfect these skills. Spinning Babies uses rebozo, inversion, and release to optimize fetal positioning, and well as several positions to open the pelvis to allow baby to descend. Learn about Spinning Babies at this link.

Massage and soothing touch is another element of doula care. I am trained in using massage to alleviate discomfort, provide counter pressure, and gently soothe the body. I typically massage with oil or with magnesium body butter to provide optimal relief. This option is available not just during pregnancy and labor, but immediately postpartum as well.

Other physical comfort measures doulas may use are birth balls, peanut balls, essential oils, water, hot or cold compresses, or others. I personally use all of these based on what I discuss with clients prior to the birth. Your personal preferences (for any of the things in this post) are the most important factor in what comfort measures will work best for your birth. I want to make a special note about essential oils though - I don't believe that labor is a good time to start experimenting with essential oils. If you already use them in daily life and find certain oils soothing and relaxing, then I absolutely support that use and will facilitate ways to make them available. Otherwise, I only carry one essential oil in my bag, which is clary sage, because of its benefits during labor. (I do not recommend attempting to induce labor.) Learn about the use of clary sage essential oil during labor here.

Emotional support during pregnancy and birth may include helping create birth affirmations, reassurance and confidence in your ability to give birth, empowerment, and peer mental health support.

Emotional support is crucial to having a positive birth experience. Holding space for a person during her labor and birth, encouraging her to listen to her body, and believing in her strength is an essential aspect of doula care.

Prior to the birth, I sit down with my clients to get to know their hopes, their fears, and their emotions during pregnancy and regarding the upcoming birth. We discuss the joys, the sorrows, the stresses, and whatever else is on her mind. I also do a brief peer mental health screen and provide referrals to qualified mental health providers as needed.

No matter if my client is a first time mother or has had several children, if she's had amazing birth experiences or traumatic, each birth brings on unique emotions. Whether it's adding a new member to the family, the prospect of giving birth, or anything else, each client has unique emotional needs that I am equipped to support. The emotions present during pregnancy can directly impact the body during labor, so offering that support is vital to an optimal birth.

During labor and birth, I encourage and reassure my clients, as well as help them reframe and accept their birth as it unfolds. Having a doula present at a birth is shown to positively impact how people view their birth experiences. Having a doula to provide this type of emotional support is valuable.

After the birth, I provide emotional support by helping debrief the birth, explore the emotions regarding the birth experience, address and work through any trauma, and provide another peer mental health screening for PPD/A. I offer this particular birth trauma support independent of being a birth client, so that anyone with a difficult birth experience has the opportunity to work through trauma.

I'm often asked, do doulas replace partners? Or, do I need a doula if I have a supportive partner?

Doulas do not replace partners - my role is not at all the same as a spouse during a birth. Whether you have an extremely supportive partner, a somewhat clueless partner, or no partner present at the birth, the emotional support of a doula is uniquely valuable.

Learn more about the positive impacts of doula care at the following links:

Informational support during pregnancy and birth may include helping to create a birth vision, navigating the processes of pregnancy and birth, facilitating informed consent, and providing evidence based information to make informed choices.

Whether this is your first pregnancy or your 10th, informational support is always valuable for birth. The information available through doula care is frequently evolving with the field of birth. As a doula, I take care to be up to date on the most recent evidence based information, studies, and practices, to be able to offer the most up to date informational support.

Preparing for birth can be somewhat overwhelming, no matter where you plan to give birth. Interventions are often standard during hospital birth in particular, and a mom hoping to avoid interventions (whether in general or certain interventions in particular) will need evidence based information to make informed decisions. Not every care provider will take the time to inform their patients about alternatives, which is a major aspect of the informational support I offer as a doula.

When the time comes to give birth, having a doula present can be an asset in having your choices respected. I do not speak to providers on behalf of my clients, but I empower them to feel confident in their birth choices and make their voices heard. If certain things arise during labor, I can provide evidence based information to help a client make the decision right for her.

Throughout their pregnancies, I'm available for contracted clients to text or email me about any questions they may have. During one of our prenatal appointments, we'll work on your "birth vision" - rather than an inflexible birth plan, my goal is to help you envision how you want your birth to feel, and give you the tools to make it possible. We'll go over standard interventions at your place of birth, your preferences, your desired methods of laboring, and your hopes for your birth experience.

Doulas are familiar with the standard care pregnant people receive, alternatives, and can often suggest ways of alleviating regular discomforts in pregnancy. As doulas, we are not medical professionals, and do not dispense medical advice. I personally keep a running resource list of recommended providers for all pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding related care needs, as well as provide evidence based information to questions regarding those topics.

For more information on medical interventions during labor, follow these links:

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