DONA International describes a doula as such:
The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
I was reading an article in my International Doula magazine and it was called, Making a Real Difference, by Alison Langley. The article talked about a woman who had read a negative birth story online and was scared that her hopes for a natural labor with her first child might not come true. She was worried that something would happen like the story she read that would make her want an epidural or even have to have a cesarean. In this situation there are many things I could tell a woman to help calm her fears. One main thing a person has to think about though is, who is posting about their birth story online? I'm sure their are women out there that had a fairly, what people would call 'normal', birth that might want to post about it, but for the most part if a person has a very negative experience or on the other hand a very positive experience they may be more likely to post. I think it is great to read birth stories… a lot of them actually. A woman can learn a lot from other women's experiences, but take the education with you and leave the fear of the, 'what if that happens to me.' Worrying and being fearful of something is normal, but a person has to accept those feelings and then let them pass. It does no good to hold those negative feelings over your head.
NOW, about getting a doula. Throughout my training I have learned a great deal. I feel very confident in my ability to help a family through pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding(if thats their choice) as a doula. I'm actually extremely excited about this great beginning! However, I believe that there is a 'right' or multiple 'rights' doula for everyone. A person should definitely interview a doula before hiring, and the same goes for the care provider whether its an OB, Family Practitioner, or Midwife.
I learned this the hard way. After my first birth I had lost a lot of trust in the medical world (not that they were necessarily at fault for anything), but I became afraid and didn't agree with the 'rules' of the hospital. When I hired my doula I made a mistake. I didn't realize how medically based she actually was. A doula is supposed to be on the same page as the momma, but in this case we weren't. I'm not saying she is a bad doula, or that she wouldn't be perfect for somebody else. We didn't fit though for various reasons. For example, I needed somebody that I could tell my real plans to, and when I did instead of listening she balked at my ideas and agreed with the hospital rules. Simple things like sneaking in a few bites of food here and there, and not going to the hospital as soon as my care provider wanted me to were not acceptable to her. I wanted to play by my own rules and I think she was afraid of getting in trouble. I needed a doula who had no attachment to the hospital or the medical world. I needed a woman who was simply there to help me achieve my goals, and who cared almost as much as I did!
I believe every woman should have a doula. If not a certified, hired doula, then a really good friend or family member to give 100% support to the mom. A doula isn't just for a woman wanting a natural birth either. It is for any pregnant mom, or sometimes mom's even hire them to be with children who might be attending the birth. That way the mom knows the child's needs are being met, everything is being explained to them, and the doula can take the child out if it becomes too much for them. I have also heard about a woman who was having twins delivered by cesarean who hired a doula for each twin, so that when they were delivered, the husband could stay with his wife and they could still be confident that there wishes were being carried out for their babies when they left the room.
I wanted to add one more thing before I end this post. You may be wondering exactly what a doula does by now? I once again am pulling this off the Dona International Website, but here is a great explanation!
A Birth Doula
- Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
- Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
- Stays with the woman throughout the labor
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
- Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
- Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience
- Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level