Having a baby is such an intimate (and vulnerable) time for a woman that even if she has a dozen friends that she adores, the actual number of people who will be actively helping her (in the room) would be a few. More often it is the dad (see an article about dads and doulas here), sometimes her mom or mother in law (or both) and maybe her best friend. It could be all of these parties, a combination of them all or only one. A doula is supportive to both the mother and who she chooses to have at her birth. A doula plays a crucial role in helping the chosen support parties become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable.
Family and friends care and love the mom in a way that the doula can’t because of the nature of the relationships. It’s special and a doula should never try to step in those roles. However, there are differences between having friend/family support and a doula’s labor support:
A doula is a professional in the childbirth field and is educated on the procedures, interventions, medications that the woman may encounter during birth and becomes a source of information so that the mom can make informed decisions. She is also involved in births on a regular basis and is more likely to be updated on specific hospital policies.
The doula is recognized as a professional to nurses and doctors this allows communication between the mother and medical professionals to be enhanced.
The doula offers non-stop labor support. She is there working mainly for the mom, but also is there to get her family and friends involved in supporting her with comfort measures, position changes, words of encouragement and affirmation.
The doula is aware of the different phases of birth and can often predict what stage the mom is in even before a doctor or nurse checks her. This is because there is a rhythm to birth and unlike the doctors and nurses the doula is there the whole time to let the mom (and father) know that she is progressing.
Okay, I am going to say this and please do not take it the wrong way. Often family and friends unknowingly discourage the mom with their fears and preconceived ideas of how her birth should go. Also, doula will not take a mother’s responses and behavior personal allowing the mom to feel free and uninhibited during labor and birth.
As women we are always thinking about other people before ourselves. Sometimes this need to take care of every one else makes it hard for a laboring mom to focus and really go with the flow of labor. During birth a woman needs to be mothered (doula in Greek means "mothering the mother, or serving the woman". She needs to be the center of attention and when everything around her is going fast or chaotic or annoying, the doula is the calm, steady voice telling her she can do it. Together with her chosen support team, the new mom can have a greater satisfaction with their birth experience, a closer relationship with those involved and confidence in her abilities to mother.
Natalia Hals is a mother, wife, daughter and best friend who is passionate about women having a safe and memorable birth experience that they desire. As long as she can remember she's been at awe of what we are able to do as woman and hope to help other women tap into their inner strength. Click here to learn more about Natalia and her doula/childbirth education services!