I always imagined that whenever I got pregnant, it would be planned, and that it would be like every pregnancy/labor & delivery scene you’ve seen in a TV show or movie. It would go something like, “Oh my God, I think my water just broke!” Then I immediately break out into a hysterical scream and go into my routine Lamaze breathing. Moments later, I hear my beautiful baby cry. I’ve been pregnant twice, and each time they were unplanned and the complete opposite of those movie scenes. I was 21 and uneducated about pregnancy and birth my first go, and I made a promise to myself that the next time around I would be prepared to take charge and have the experience that I desired. Whether your pregnancy has been planned or spur of the moment, whether you’re teenager or middle-aged woman, having a doula present during pregnancy experience is essential. If you’re having a planned or emergency Cesarean (C-section), a hospital or homebirth, having a doula present is vital. Society has hidden the importance of a doula and education regarding them; therefore women now see doulas as an option rather than a necessity. While there are numerous reasons why a pregnant mama should hire a doula, here are 10.
All About the Mama- A doula’s sole purpose is to meet the needs of the mother. She is there to nurture and provide support throughout the labor and delivery process, regardless of any procedures or environment changes. Your doula’s main agenda is to be by your side, comforting you emotionally and physically. If you have a partner present, they will incorporate them in soothing techniques such as massages, using a rebozo, delivery positions and more. Your doula is for you and only you. Not the hospital, doctor, nurse, or your mother-in-law; unless they are your support person.
On-Call Support- Your doula isn’t just there to support you during labor and delivery; they are there throughout your pregnancy as well. If you allow, doulas are present when and if you’re planning to become pregnant, at your prenatal appointments, or providing you with evidence based research in order to ensure that you are knowledgeable about your body and your baby. Just like technology, the medical field and their practices are constantly changing. You could have given birth two years ago and find yourself confused at every appointment in your current pregnancy. In my case, my children are six years apart. I remember one of the midwives on my team telling me that they now suggest pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine while the baby is still in utero. They say that the antibodies immediately begin to work on their immune system to protect them for the first two months of life. Welp, six years ago, that was unheard of, and I was not comfortable saying ‘yes’ to a vaccination that I hadn’t learned about previously. I quickly notified my doula, and she immediately sent me over evidence based research on the vaccine. I didn’t have to plan or wait for the right time to call her to get the information I needed.
Resources- As a society, it has become normal to just go with the flow, popularity and with fads. We are among a popcorn society; one that believes in everything moving at the speed of light. It is unhealthy for a pregnant woman to rush her pregnancy, labor and delivery, and healing after birth. You have to take a step back and really think about what your mind, body and soul are experiencing during these times. Having resources readily available is important, and your doula will point you in the right direction. When you are in the market of buying a home, car or working on a new job, one does not go into that process blindsided. In most cases, you have done your research and have learned as much as you could because of how big of an investment it is. Giving birth and bringing life into this world is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. A doula reminds you of this and offers so many helpful resources that are personalized for you. Each person is different and may not need the same resources, so it helps having someone to be by your side helping you sort through the overwhelming information that is out there for pregnant women.
Holistic Health- Doulas truly believe in the overall health of the mother and child(ren). That is the mental, physical and spiritual health, rather than just the physical aspect alone. Many women often think of pregnancy as only prenatal visits, sonograms, blood work, weight watching, and more. While those come along with pregnancy, it is so much more than that. Having a healthy pregnancy and baby means taking care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. Your doula can assist you in your nutrition, healthy material to read, suggestions for activities that help you to remain active and some to incorporate your family, stretches that will help ease the aches, natural ways to aid in getting the sleep you need, etc. In addition to those mentioned, women who have suffered from miscarriage, stillbirth and/or infant loss benefit from the holistic approach of a doula.
Medical Health-I will never forget my visit with a high-risk doctor during my first pregnancy. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times the possible death of either me or my daughter was mentioned during that visit. A direct quote from him was “Giving birth is a moment of either life or death.” One of the main objectives of a doula is to decrease the maternal death rate. Black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth, and many natural birth workers believe it is due to the medical interventions, and/or lack of proper care that take place during labor and delivery. For every medical intervention that a doctor will recommend, your doula has a natural option to combat it with. A few examples of this are natural induction versus medical induction, changing the position of a breached baby, and avoiding an episiotomy and/or tearing of the perineum. In some cases, a medical intervention cannot be avoided in order to help save the mom and baby, but even in those moments your doula being present can help change a negative situation into a positive one.
Advocacy- If you’re delivering in a hospital you will most likely experience the shift changes of nurses and doctors. When you’re in labor, talking is the furthest thing from your mind. Your main focus is to get through each contraction (or whatever positive word replacement you choose). Depending on what hospital you deliver at and who the delivery team is, you unfortunately may experience some form of discomfort. Having a doula present will bring about a sense of calmness and relief among you and your partner. If needed, they will bridge the gap of communication between you and the doctor; ask any questions you may have, help reinforce your birth plan and more. Women are often given little information about procedures during labor and delivery and a doula will advocate for you to have the birth that you desire.
Comfort. Confidence. Judgment Free (C.C.J.F)-When pregnant, you experience a lot of things that make you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. They can range from extreme gas, constipation, a weak bladder and more. No matter how embarrassing it may be, they’ve witnessed it all before. You may also have differing views from other mothers. Maybe you’d rather give your child all the vaccinations that the doctors recommend or you won’t vaccinate them at all. Your doula provides a judgment-free zone. Whatever choices you are making for your family, as long as they do not cause blatant harm, your doula will support and make you feel confident about it.
Breastfeeding (Intro)-When giving birth to your little one, you have the option of breastfeeding or bottle feeding (formula). If you choose to breastfeed, I can’t stress enough how support is needed from the very start in order to be successful at it. From getting the baby to latch, finding a comfortable position to nurse in, recognizing baby hunger cues and more, doulas will assist. While there are lactation specialists who can go in-depth, if you’ve delivered in a hospital, there’s no telling when the expert will make their way to you. Having a doula to aid you in the meantime relieves you of the stress of hearing your newborn baby scream because they’re hungry and you can’t get them to latch on to your breast. In some cases, your doula may be a certified lactation expert, in which you have hit the jackpot.
Postpartum Health-As I’ve stated before, doulas are there for the long haul. They don’t just disappear after the umbilical cord is cut (if you choose to do so). They will make house visits, scheduled and as needed. While pregnant, people are checking up on you to make sure you’ve eaten, to see if you’ve gotten any rest and to see if you’re feeling okay in general. Often times, those calls stop after the first week of your postpartum journey. I recently saw a mom at my daughter’s school picking up her older child only four days after giving birth to her newborn who was with her. I’m not sure if she preferred to be superwoman and do it herself, or if she had no choice. In that scenario, a doula would have made sure to accommodate the newborn while she ran out to handle her duties. While women are strong, we still need to be cared for during the fourth trimester. Whether it is your first or fourth time, support is needed. It is so easy to forget to shower, brush your teeth or eat when caring for a newborn. You’re trying so hard to soothe your baby’s cries, and you haven’t noticed that you’ve been holding your pee for the past hour. You find yourself so tired from the lack of sleep, washing clothes, cooking and cleaning is the last thing you want to do. There’s a doula for that. Postpartum depression is also very real, and having a doula may help with the onset of the blues.
Family Support- If you are bringing a newborn into an already established family with one or more children already present, the transition can be a little intense. Children can feel neglected, jealous, confused, and more. Having a doula present can help facilitate family bonding and show you ways to keep all members involved in caring for the new baby and you.
All in all, doulas are not doormats or people you take advantage of, but are individuals that there for you in every way possible. Having one is a necessity, not an option or accessory!