What is a doula

My doula looked me in the eyes after an exhausting day of labor and said, “We aren’t going to give up here. You are going to give this your all and you *are* going to push your baby out.” Having someone who believed in me made a world of difference and I truly don’t know how I would have done it without her. – Heather

A week before I gave birth to my second child I fully freaked out. I was scared of how adding a second baby would shake up our family. I called my doula and she sat with me on the phone, listening as I poured my heart out. She heard me. After that call, I still felt afraid, but I also felt strong, supported, and loved. My second baby’s birth was one of my fiercest, proudest moments. I was scared, I was brave and I was seen. – Jenny

What is a doula?

Simply put, a birth doula is a person trained in labor support. That support comes in different flavors but whatever methods used, doulas help you feel safe, supported and prepared as you go through pregnancy, birth and enter parenthood.

A doula is someone who knows and cares about what you want; Someone who understands the dynamics of birth; Someone who can navigate the hospital and help you understand your choices; Someone who can reassure you and your partner if things get hairy; Someone who believes in you; Someone who can amplify your decisions and feelings in a vulnerable time; Someone who values you and your family’s experience of birth and early parenthood.

What does a doula do?

We can categorize the bulk of what doulas do into three areas: information, emotional support and physical support. With a splash of advocacy.

The information department is pretty straightforward. Doulas can give you evidence-based information and talk with you about your available options. We know what is available at your place of birth and we work with you prenatally to come up with a list of what is important to you.

The emotional department is the driving force behind what doulas do. We genuinely care about you and your family and we understand that the journey into parenthood, while often beautiful and full of love, can be intense and challenging. We help you unravel what it is that you want and why that might be. Partners and family members also look to us during birth for emotional support.

Physical support is an important aspect of your labor experience. Doulas know many comfort techniques for different scenarios: breathing techniques to cue relaxation; how to squeeze your hips or pressure points on your back to make contractions more manageable; when a cold wash cloth might feel divine. Doulas can also show partners how they can help you feel as comfortable as possible. Having a doula also means that partners and loved ones can have breaks without worrying about leaving you alone.

Can’t my partner or family member or friend be my doula?

Your chosen support people, like your partner or a family member, will play a role in your birth. Be assured that a doula isn’t there to replace them, however family members often can’t replace the skillset of a doula. In today’s culture where people aren’t exposed to birth or even supportive roles, it’s a big responsibility to be your only labor support person with little or no experience in birth.

Doulas have training specifically in birth and we have spent hundreds of hours supporting families through their births. We have expertise in all kinds of births: from straightforward to more complex.

Working together with your chosen support people on the day of your baby’s birth is an integral part of what we do. We can show partners how to do the hip thing or we can focus on your back while they hold your hands and whisper encouraging words. We are a team whose sole purpose is to support you.

Your doula is often the support to your support because birth can be overwhelming and there are a lot of new aspects for partners, family members and friends. We truly doula your whole family.

Won’t a doctor or nurse be with me in labor the whole time?

No. You will see your nurse more than your doctor but your nurse will be in and out of your room. Nurses are responsible for many clinical tasks and multiple patients so they are unable to stay with you throughout the whole labor. They don’t always have the time or training to help you with comfort techniques or other forms of labor support. The majority of the time you will labor with only your chosen support people in the room.

What are the benefits of hiring a doula?

Even without looking to the studies we hear the same words repeated by our clients. We brought them a feeling of safety and reassurance knowing that a familiar face was going to be at their birth. People felt heard. We offered a listening ear if difficult decisions needed to be made or emotions came up. We answered their questions, big and small, and, of course, people loved that thing we did with their hips to help them get through contractions. They felt confident knowing that their doula had their back, that we would amplify their voice and support them no matter what.

On the evidence side of it, having a doula at your birth decreases the incidence of unwanted interventions, including surgery. More importantly to us, hiring a doula increases your chance of being satisfied with your birth. Being supported by someone experienced, compassionate and familiar is a game changer.

When should I hire a doula?

The sooner you hire a doula the more support you will receive during your pregnancy. This can be anything from listening to feelings and concerns, helping you sort through options, answering questions about birth and baby gear, discussing book recommendations if you are interested in delving deeper, and sharing any other additional resources that may be useful to you during your pregnancy.

If you are nearing the end of pregnancy and you are now deciding you want the support of a doula, that’s fine too. We will get to know each other at our prenatal visits and everything we prepare together will be very fresh in your mind.

Do doulas attend birth in hospitals?

Yes absolutely. In fact we spend most of our time at hospital births because that is where the majority of people give birth. We attend births in all Montreal hospitals, as well as in maisons de naissance or people’s homes with midwives.

Won’t it be weird to have a stranger at my birth?

First of all, we won’t be strangers by then! We certainly wouldn’t find our job as rewarding if we were attending the births of strangers. Your doula will be a familiar person in a sea of new people.

Secondly, unfortunately there *will* be strangers at your birth in the form of medical staff like nurses, residents and doctors you haven’t met (or in the case of midwives your aide-natale and second midwife). We’d like to offset that experience by being someone at your birth that you have chosen and gotten to know.

Is a doula right for me?

Unmedicated birth

Are you looking to have an unmedicated birth in a hospital? Yes, a doula is right for you! Doulas have an invaluable skillset to help you prepare before labor starts and techniques during labor to help you meet your goal. It’s important to be surrounded by people who encourage and believe in you as you work through the sensations of birth. We cultivate a positive atmosphere to help you push through. Pun intended.

Birth with an epidural

Are you hoping to birth your baby with an epidural? Then yes a doula is absolutely right for you. First, you still need to work through contractions until an epidural can be placed. We encourage *everyone*, regardless of their decisions on pain relief, to have comfort techniques in their back pocket. Doulas are skilled in helping people move through this time. Second, there is work and comfort to be had once an epidural is placed. You still need support for feelings and concerns, positions you can take to encourage baby downwards, relaxation techniques to help you rest and, importantly, physical and emotional support when it’s time to push out your baby. You may still have to work hard to meet your baby even with pain relief.

Unsure about pain relief / Go with the flow

Are you not sure what you want because you don’t know what labor is going to feel like and everyone is telling you opposite information? Great. Doulas can help you sort out *your* true feelings and motivations. We are very comfortable going in with a loose plan and meeting birth with what it brings. We can help you work through the physical sensations and we will support you if you decide during labor that pain medication is right for you.

Planned Cesarean birth

Are you scheduled for a Cesarean birth? Yes, your doula is important in planned surgical births too. There can be a lot of emotions involved in your pregnancy and the lead up to your surgical birth. The day of your baby’s birth can be lengthy, partners may need to sneak away to eat as you fast, and there can be a lot of anxiety and anticipation as you wait. We can help both you and your partner into a calmer place and talk about what you can expect in the operating room. This is the day you get to meet your baby and it is an important one.

Do I need a doula if I have a midwife?

Lots of people choose to have the support of a doula at their birth when followed by a midwife. Unlike care providers, your doula is someone that you get to choose based on connection or whatever criteria you want. It’s also important to understand that midwives have medical responsibilities and that they need to be rested and alert for the birth of your baby. Doulas have a very different role so we have more flexibility in terms of supporting longer labors and remaining with you during the more intense portion of early labor. Since we don’t have medical responsibilities, we are able to focus solely on your and your family’s needs. Doulas really complement the midwifery model of care beautifully.

Have more questions? Send them our way or book a free consultation to discuss how our doulas can help support you through your pregnancy and birth.

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