To Doula or Not to Doula

Should you doula?  Today, I want to tell you about my two great experiences with doulas during childbirth.

Just What Is a Doula?

For those of you who don’t know what a doula (DEW-la) is, the word “doula” was derived from a Greek term meaning handmaiden, or mother’s helper. So a doula is, simply put, just continuous support for a mother and her partner during labor.

When I was pregnant the first time, I knew I was going to be having my daughter at a birth center surrounded by midwives, so I questioned, “Do I really need to have a doula?” And then for the second baby, we planned on a hospital birth. It turned out to be a bathroom-at-my-house birth, but that’s another story.

We Had a Doula for Both Our Children

I decided to have a doula for both births. The first time, even though I was going to be with midwives, I decided that I wanted to have someone who was going to be completely dedicated to just me and my husband.  I wanted to make sure that we had support and that if Steve needed to get up and use the bathroom, that I wasn’t going to wig out because I felt alone or I was dealing with a contraction or whatever.

So we hired a woman named Cindy and she was amazing. She has a number of kids, most of which were delivered at home by just her and her husband. She was very experienced in the natural home birth realm, plus I really liked her. We had done our birthing class with her. Probably the greatest thing this really sweet lady gave us was just her calm nature.

She gave us suggestions. You know, if I was having a particularly hard contraction, she said, “Well, hey, maybe try this position, or try that position.” Or whatever, back rubs, putting a cold cloth on my head. I mean, literally, she was there the entire time, just a calm presence, which was great.

Our Second Daughter and the Doula

The second time, we hired a doula named Mariah, and because we didn’t make it to the hospital we didn’t have her for the entire labor. However, when Steve called my parents and Mariah and told them it was going to be happening at our house Mariah came quickly.  She shimmied her way right into our little tiny bathroom, positioned herself right behind me as I was leaning back on the bathtub and got my hair out of my face, rubbed my cheek, told me I was doing great and her presence and help was……huge for me.

It was huge to have that support because Steve was doing a great job being supportive but he was also taking directions from the 911 dispatcher on how to deliver our baby. He was very encouraging and of course, my mom and dad arrived as well. It was nice to know they were in the house but to have Mariah right behind me, holding onto me, rubbing my shoulders, keeping my hair out of my face, encouraging me as I was pushing, telling me I was doing a great job…..that was a very big deal for me.

That kind of continuous support, whether or not it’s for 10 minutes or 10 hours, is important!  It’s important, I believe, to have that woman dedicated to you, to being your champion during this intense life milestone. I wanted to make sure that I say this. A doula is someone who’s going to be there for you.

What About Family and a Doula?

Now, it doesn’t mean that if you have family close by that you don’t want to have them there as well.  I have a great relationship with my mom and I’ve been fortunate enough to have her with me for both births. I wanted to have her there, however in my mind her function was mostly emotional support, to hold my hand, a prayer warrior…all super important.  But as far as having someone there to do the cold washcloth, coaching me, and maybe make phone calls for me, or a bit of interfacing with hospital staff — that was the point of having the doula.

For those of you that may not have family close by, or aren’t interested in having your family with you, you’re the mamma, you get to choose who you have in the room with you. Don’t ever be bullied by anyone. Do not allow anyone to force their way into the delivery room or the birth center with you. This is your birth experience, so make sure the people you have in there with you are the ones you want, because it’s vital. If you don’t have anyone that you want in there with you, consider hiring a doula.

What Does Science Say About Doulas?

There is a Cochrane review article for those of you that might be interested in a scientific approach to this whole doula thing. I found it to be interesting that in this article… I forget how many women they interviewed but they did a bunch of reviews and they polled a bunch of different women about how having a doula or, I guess I should say in this article, a person who provided continuous support, helped. The support person could have been a mom, a doula, a sister, whoever, as long as it was a person providing continuous support.

Anyway, the investigators found that the women who had someone providing continuous support were happier with their outcome and that there were fewer interventions. These women didn’t need pain medication or fewer chose that option because they felt like they didn’t need it. There wasn’t a need for an assist, the woman was more likely to spontaneously have a vaginal birth versus a Cesarean or the use forceps or vacuum. So, all in all, the review basically said that having someone who’s there to provide continuous support is a good deal and it’s going to help you have a happier outcome.

I know for sure that was the case for me, and I’m so glad that Cindy and Mariah attended my two births. I would do it again if I were going to have another baby.

I hope you find this useful!

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