Short Answer: As much or as little as you want

A Birth Doula is a multi-faceted role- what we do changes depending on the situation. We’re a bit like a combination of a teacher, coach, friend and wise woman all rolled into one. We perform different functions at different times and our ultimate job is to help guide you from your prenatal preparation days through birth and into early postpartum. We might be listeners or educators, quiet or tough love, hands-on or fading into the background. The key ingredient to a great doula, in addition to knowing the job, is the ability to connect emotionally with the room and everyone in it.

To get a little more tactical…

Here are some of the things we can bring into the birth experience:

  • Prenatal education: We meet in your home on two occasions before the birth to talk in depth about everything from the childbirth process to what to pack for the hospital. Nothing is off limits.
  • Comfort measures: We’ll go over various types of comfort measures you and your partner can employ at home and what types of support you think you’ll want from me. This can be anything from acupressure, rebozo, massage, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, counterpressure, walking, stretching, positions. It’s all fair game.
  • Partner support: We will explore ways your partner can feel engaged and supported through the birth. A doula is there for the entire family, not just the birthing person.
  • Emotional support: A doula will be on call for your labor, but also there for questions leading up to the birth. You have unlimited access to us (though, if it’s at night and we’re not on call, we might respond the next morning).
  • Physical support: We’re going to be right there with you, as hands-on as you need. The amount of physical support you want may change as you move through labor- this is totally normal. Something that felt good at one point might not at another and vice versa. We will continually check in with you and offer suggestions for changes.
  • Breastfeeding support: All doulas complete basic breastfeeding training so that we can assist with normal initiation. Some doulas, like myself, complete additional training and certification. I am a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) which has the same scope of practice as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
  • Processing the birth: When we meet a few days after the birth, we’ll discuss the birth- what you remember, things you might have missed, how you felt about decisions that were made and what you took away from the birth. Every birth will be an experience you want to talk about, regardless of the outcome.

…but we don’t do everything

A couple things we don’t do:

  • We’re not medical professionals. This means we’re not going to do cervical checks, take your blood pressure, prescribe medications or anything that falls in the realm of your care provider. We can educate you about what normal labor and postpartum looks like, and what types of medical options might be offered to you in the course of your journey, but those decisions are yours to make with your care provider.
  • We’re not going to speak for you. While we want you to remain as focused on your birth experience as possible, and will make sure you have education about what informed consent means before labor begins, the ultimate decision of what is or is not done in the course of your labor and postpartum is yours. We are happy to help you navigate the options but we won’t make the decisions for you or tell a doctor or nurse what to do.

The best doulas, in my opinion, see themselves as a part of the birth care team. That team is made up of you and your partner (and other support people you may choose), your care providers, and us. We all have the same goal- to work together in harmony to create a fulfilling, memorable, beautiful birth experience and smooth transition to postpartum life. Many doulas, like myself, have additional training and certifications in breastfeeding (if that’s something you are choosing) so that we can help you navigate that potential source of stress in the early days and weeks.

We want you to focus on the thing only you can do- birth and grow your baby- and it’s our job to make you feel feel safe, supported and free to focus on doing exactly that.

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