While your healthcare provider can give you recommendations, advice, and oversee your care, they often have several patients to care for at once and must properly note your charts, along with other administrative work. Having birth support of your own can help reduce your chance of medical interventions, wanting medical pain relief, and increase your chance of having a positive birth experience. Birthing support can be your partner, parent, sibling, or friend. You may also want to consider hiring a professional birth support person who has been trained to support you throughout labor and postpartum.
A birth doula is someone who supports the mother physically and emotionally throughout labor. They are non-medical professionals who know and understand the birthing process and can provide support to a laboring mother by means of affirmations, massage, counter-pressure, and lots more. They are professional support for laboring mothers who are up-to-date with common medical procedures and recommendations. A birth doula is not the same thing as a midwife, as doulas do not provide clinical care.
A postpartum doula is a support person who assists a mother after the baby is born. They may pull overnight shifts to help the mother and father get better sleep. They can prepare meals, clean, do dishes, laundry, etc. to help the family transition. They also can assist with breastfeeding and basic newborn care. Many people think of this service similarly to a “night nurse”, but there is a distinction between the two. A night nurse is a licensed nurse who can provide clinical care, especially if the baby has special needs. A postpartum doula is not a licensed nurse, but can be trained and certified to provide basic newborn care and should be certified in infant CPR.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the use of continuous birth support. By being continuously supported, a laboring woman can achieve better outcomes and lessen their chances of a cesarean or other medical interventions. Doulas are trained in supporting laboring woman and their partners; they are able to suggest positional changes, rest, hydration, and comfort techniques customized to that client. By being up-to-date on medical procedures and recommendations, they can provide quick education to parents who may not understand something happening in the moment. This can help take a lot of pressure off the partner, who otherwise may feel responsible for “controlling” the situation, while the mother is focused on birthing. They support partners too by providing them with an extra set of hands for massage or counter pressure, and being able to take breaks when needed without leaving the laboring mother alone.
When looking for a doula, consider their training and certification to ensure that their beliefs align with yours. Your doula must be someone you connect with and trust. Interview as many as you need to find the best fit for you.