What Does a Doula Do? The Benefits of Hiring a Doula
There are two types of doulas – one for supporting a couple during labor, the other for supporting the postpartum woman and her family once she gets home from the hospital.
Both types of doulas meet the needs of the family that are not being met in the hospital during labor or at home during postpartum. Historically women have had much more support during a woman’s child-bearing years than is common today.
In the Labor Room
A Labor Support Doula provides on-going physical and emotional support for the laboring woman and her partner for the entire length of active labor. In a hospital setting, a couple labors alone for the majority of the time.
The maternity nurses are there to monitor the progress of a woman’s labor and to be sure the labor is progressing normally. Most maternity nurses are warm and professional and would love to spend more time with the laboring couple to help them through the process. The reality is that they don’t have the time to help during the labor. Here is where the doula becomes essential.
A Labor doula actively encourages and instructs the mom with information about her labor, helps her to manage contractions and explain and remind her about her pain options. Some mothers want a non-medicated birth, others are quite anxious about the intensity of labor and the pain that is associated with it.
The doula will help the mom achieve whatever her personal goals and expectations are for her birth. The Doula will make practical suggestions, use active pain management techniques and provide on-going reassurance, encouragement, and suggest techniques that will provide comfort.
If there are suggestions from the hospital staff, the doula can help the couple to identify what options they may or may not have. A good labor support doula does not have her own agenda for your birth. Her role is to fill-in the gap of laboring alone in the hospital while respecting the medical team and meeting the needs of the couple.
Studies show that women who have a Labor Support person with them have shorter labors, less C-Sects, and less use of other drugs and interventions.
The spouse/partner also is provided with encouragement and support so that he can actively participate at his comfort level. Labor can be a long, intense process. Having a doula allows the partner to take a nap, get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee without worrying he will be leaving his partner alone.
You will live a lifetime with your birth experience. Hiring a doula will help the experience to be a positive one.
In the Home
A postpartum doula provides emotional and practical support for the postpartum woman and her family. A first-time mother has a very specific need for rest, confidence-building and breastfeeding help.
Having a baby for the first-time is one of the biggest events of one’s life but often we go into it feeling like we don’t know what we are doing.
A postpartum doula will provide support and guidance that will allow new parents to get current information about the care of their newborn, help with breastfeeding issues and practical household help easing the stress and anxiety of bringing a new baby home from the hospital.
Experienced mothers may not have the same worries about their newborn but the anxiety of bringing home a new baby shifts to concern for a mother’s older child or children.
It is a big adjustment from having one child to two or more. It takes time for everyone to adjust to the addition of a new baby. Having a postpartum doula can ease the adjustment for everyone in the family.
She helps the mother by relieving her of her usual responsibilities such as thinking and making the family meals, shopping, laundry and light housework. The mom can nap while the doula is there, helping her to catch up on much-needed sleep. The doula will play and care for siblings while the mom rests and gets to know her newborn. The doula can also watch the baby so that mom can have one-on-one time with her older one/s.
The doula also supports the father by allowing him to return to work without worrying about his wife and children. Doulas are warm, nurturing, experienced, and reliable. MothersCare Doula Services hires wonderful doulas with whom we would trust during our own births or with our own families at home.
Having a postpartum Doula lessens the stress and increases the joy during those early weeks with a new baby. The doula helps everyone adjust in the early weeks by especially helping the mom to rest and recover from delivery.
Doulas can help during the day or overnight. Having such support shortens a mother’s recovery time and can help everyone feel happy during postpartum instead of having stress and anxiety over the new baby, breastfeeding or sibling adjustment.
About Susan Shepard
I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”