Why a doula

Mother with child

I rarely try to insist and convince a family to hire a doula. I believe that I can offer my best support to those families who desire to work with me. But I do have thoughts crossing my mind when I hear “I donʼt need a doula”, mainly coming from what I have observed at births. Here are a few:

I have a midwife, I donʼt need a doula.

The support of a midwife is indispensable, and in a country like Germany it is luckily available for most pregnant people. However, a midwife is not a doula. Unless you are giving birth at home, you will be followed by the midwives who are covering their shift at the hospital or birth centre. They will typically care for more people giving birth at the same time. So for most of labour, you will see a midwife entering your room, checking on you, and leaving. They are usually excellent professionals, but they are most often running on a tight schedule. You probably will not know the midwife beforehand, and each of them will leave at the end of their shift, not at the end of your birth. Even when you are giving birth at home, with a midwife that you know and that will stay for the whole birth, she will have to deal with mostly medical and other very important tasks.

Why a doula?

A birth doula remains by your side for the whole duration of labour and birth. You are already familiar with her, she knows your birth preferences, and she is entirely dedicated to you and to ensuring those preferences are respected. A doula is not a medical professional, she is trained in providing emotional support and physical comfort. This work can start long before the day of labour, to make sure you will be able to give birth in the conditions that make it easiest for you.

I have a partner, I donʼt need a doula.

Having a partner who is able and committed to give support during childbirth is a blessing, and I am grateful each time I see it happening. Other partners are not at ease with childbirth: sometimes they are not sure how to behave, or are afraid to be traumatised by the experience. In any case, doulas often attend births where the partner is also present. And sometimes… the partner may really need a doula too. Often the partner has little or no experience attending birth. Even with the best of intentions, their theoretical and practical knowledge on the subject may be limited, and they will almost certainly be so emotionally involved in the situation that it will be hard for them to remain calm. Last but not least, a key hormone, oxytocin, which plays a central role in childbirth, is stimulated by the presence of other women. This may in part explain why childbirth has been attended only or mostly by women for millennia, before it was medicalised in the 19th century.

What can a doula offer?

As a doula, I imagine myself as an anchor, a grounding force. A doula is often trained in techniques that can help optimal birth, including movement, positions and breathing. Her experience in attending childbirth allow her not only to provide tools to the mother, but also to make her feel safe, protected, cared for. This is the atmosphere in which your oxytocin is naturally stimulated, and the birth experience can become pleasurable.

I have already had a baby, I donʼt need a doula.

Honestly I donʼt really hear this sentence often. In fact, most of the births I attend are for families that have already had babies and say “This time, we want it to be different.” You may have given birth to one or more children, but your experience of childbirth remains tied to those particular cases. Each birth is different and special, and this birth may have nothing to do with previous experiences, even if this is your third or fourth baby. Some families also want want a doula to attend their childbirth because they have had a traumatic experience and now want to be accompanied in the process.

How is a doula different than other options?

A doula is a pain-relief option that has no side-effects. She is usually trained in providing comfort measures that can ease pain, and can help the partner to perform them too. Most importantly, if you work with me as a doula, we will go through your birth preferences during your pregnancy. Keeping them flexible, but with the intention of having them respected. Part of my work as a doula is to make sure that the family is informed, understands and gives consent to procedures during birth. I do not make decisions on your behalf, and I have great trust in the advice of medical personnel, but I make sure that you can make informed decisions. There is so much power in birth, and my mission is to make you feel empowered and supported.

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