What is a Doula?

I believe our culture is centered too much around hospitals. In my opinion, hospitals are where people to go to die. Probably not the best view.

Since our country has this centered mindset, it’s not hard to imagine that no one knows what a doula is. Many women, even if they have been to childbirth classes, and have read about natural childbirth, do not know what a doula is and how they can help a laboring woman.

I myself was even in the dark until recently.

A doula is someone that wants to help a laboring woman get the most our of her labor as possible. She wants to help the woman achieve the outcome she most desires, even during transition when she feels she cannot go on any farther without medication.

A doula is sometimes referred to as someone who “mothers the mother.” I hate this description. A doula is not there to pamper and cater to the laboring woman’s every whim. She is there to be the person the partner and laboring woman can fall back onto when they hit a snag. She is trained in massage, pressure points, coping, and even what positions would be best for labor and delivery.

Some women believe that a doula would take the place in the labor of the spouse or birth partner. This is just not true. So many men feel inadequate during labor, because even though they are trying to be supportive, they have never seen their wife in this much pain and are worried something is wrong. Unless you have someone that knows what you are going through and that it will be tough, it will be easy for the husband to chicken out near the end and give in to his wife’s demands for medication, especially since she is mainly not in her right mind.

A doula’s support helps the man stay more focused on his laboring wife so that they can be a better team. She suggests ways for the husband to help his wife through the labor. And even if the wife does not want her husband around at particular times (it does happen, I assure you), the doula can step in and give the husband a break to refresh himself and come back on new ground.

They are not there to take up the place in a relationship. They highten the relationship so that the couple can better bond and be there for each other in labor.

Another important thing a doula does is communicates with the hospital staff or the midwife while the woman is in labor. She knows your birth plan like the back of her hand and makes sure to follow your wishes and communicate those wishes to the staff.

Many times in labor you truly don’t think with your logic. You are trying to cope with your rushes (I like this better than contractions) and you do not have time to argue with hospital staff. The doula can do this for you!

Having a doula has been the study of a lot of cases recently between the link between cesareans, inductions, episiotomies, and breastfeeding. Having a doula in your labor significatly reduces your risk of having a cesarean section, of labor augmentation (using pitocin – the medical substitute of oxytocin which starts labor and keeps it going), it reduces the need for episiotomies (the woman is more comfortable in her environment), it reduces the need for forceps and vacuum deliveries, and a woman is more confident in herself so she breastfeeds better or has help learning to breastfeed after the baby arrives by someone who cares and not a nurse who has other patients to attend to.

When you think of all the risks of going through labor in today’s hospital setting, I believe it is totally worth it to hire a doula. She is there for you your entire labor and will never leave your side.

A doula recognizes birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all her life…


15 Responses

  1. Just a quick comment about your feelings on hospitals. While I find the desire to give birth outside of a hospital valid I think that because a very large percentage of births in this country at least are in a hospital setting and many women feel more comfortable knowing a doctor is near by it is important to have a respect for them. My daughter was born very prematurely so there was never a question of where she’d be born. Afterward we spent a LOT of time in the hospital and I came to realize that a hospital is actually sacred ground. This place is where families greet new little spirits and where others say good bye as their loved ones pass on. Even if a family is in the hospital for a non-life threatening reason, tonsillectomy perhaps, you can be assured that prayers are being offered there. Even the doctors we met either subtlety or strongly supported prayer as part of our experience (and this was in a large east coast hospital). I say all of this in an effort to help you feel more at ease in the hospital setting that many women choose for their birth experience – it does not have to have such a negative connotation – it is the place I fell deeply in love with my daughter and I think many guardian angels walk the halls of hospitals.

  2. I had my daughter in a hospital. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with it if that is what you are comfortable with. It is ultimately your decision. My feelings are that I never want to go back to a hospital because of my awful experience. I had no one there to help me or walk me through anything. The NICU nurses were better than my labor and delivery nurses and the doctor I had to see. I understand why people think it is more safe, but home birth is just as safe. They can get to a hospital before something big even happens because they are there for the entire labor monitoring themselves, not with electronic devises.There are also very stringent laws on home birth. You can’t have one before 38 weeks or after 42 weeks. The woman HAS to be licensed and has to have an assistant or another midwife with her.Some women have great experiences in a hospital. I just think it is ridiculous that you aren’t offered more of a choice in the US. You are treated with disdain when you say you are having a midwife, or if you are having a birth center or a home birth. They say your baby will die, and then proceed to tell you horror stories. I didn’t hear any horror stories about the hospital, but that’s what I had.

  3. Understood. My point was simply in relation to your statement that “hospitals are a place people go to die.” I just wanted to point out that in my experience they are places where a lot of spiritual experiences happen and don’t need to be seen in a wholly negative light. I am enjoying reading your blog.

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