Doulas are so important that the World Health Organization has recommended that every woman giving birth should have one.
Most first time mamas aren’t really sure what to expect when it comes to giving birth. Will it be painful? Will my birth partner know how to help me? Will I have the strength to go through with it?
Because we can’t predict how it will go (even when you’ve had a baby before!), you may feel like you could use some extra support during your birth.
That is where a birth doula comes in.
What is a Doula?
The single most important component of every birth, no matter whether you have a midwife or an OB. The helper of the family after babies are born.
The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines doula as: “A woman experienced in childbirth who provides advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during and just after childbirth”.
But at West End Mamas in Toronto, Newmarket & York region, we define doula as: “The necessary birth companion for all births. The helper of the birth partner. The provider of ice chips. The squeezer of hips. The ultimate, experienced, calm through the storm birth support. The keeper of the mama’s sanity.”
Your midwife or your assigned nurse or your obstetrician is there for the health of you and your baby and will make sure that everyone is safe and sound. However, the birth doula is the one that will be helping your partner find ways to make you more comfortable. The birth doula is the quiet calm in the storm. The one that will remind you of your birth plans when you aren’t able to think clearly. The one who will guide your birth partner when are panicked and feeling helpless about seeing you in pain. The one that will suggest positions to help the baby descend and rotate, who will put lip balm on your lips when they are dry and who will remind you that THIS IS NORMAL. Birth is normal. Your body is built to do this. You can do this.
You had me at ice chips.
Common Questions About Doulas
What is a doula (birth doula vs a postpartum doula)?
A birth doula (also called labour doula) is an experienced professional who provides continuous labour support, both physical and emotional to the labouring person and their birth partner. They are present for your birth. That can be a hospital birth, a home birth, a car birth (we certainly hope not!), or anywhere in between. Birth doulas also provide educational support before and after labour and delivery.
A postpartum doula provides support after the baby is born and is there to support the new mama. They do things like help with breastfeeding, folding laundry, preparing light meals, tidying up, holding baby so mama can sleep, and they do a whole ton of education with mama to help her know what is normal in the postpartum period. For hundreds of years, we raised children in villages. New parents would have been surrounded by women who would care for her, and allowed her the time to rest after baby was born. They would educate her on how to care for her own baby, and hold that tiny infant so that mama could rest. Nowadays, we are expected to do this all by ourselves, and many of us realize quickly that it’s not that easy to do alone. Postpartum doulas bridge that gap, assisting after birth to help mama adjust to her new life.
What a doula is not:
A doula is not a medical professional, and does not give medical advice, perform medical procedures or make any medical decisions on your behalf.
Doulas have a lot of experience with birth and will help you understand your options, help you ask the right questions and will help you communicate them. Doulas do not advocate FOR you; they help you advocate for yourself.
What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?
Midwives are healthcare professionals who provide expert primary care to pregnant women and their newborns. A doula provides continuous care throughout labour and childbirth.
Midwives have many responsibilities including performing medical procedures, charting and monitoring both you and the baby – but can’t always be by your side coaching you through each contraction. Doulas remain by your side and provide continuous support. If you have a long birth, you may switch midwives as they change shifts, but your doula will be with you for the duration of your birth.
When is the best time to hire a birth doula?
You can hire a doula anytime. The owner of West End Mamas hired her doula when she was 7 weeks pregnant! Others wait right up until the very end to hire one. Either way is just fine. Thankfully we have a team of wonderful doulas right here in-house in Toronto, Newmarket and York region, so finding someone that you feel comfortable with that is available around your due date isn’t usually too hard to do.
Does a doula replace my birth partner?
No, not at all. Doulas do not replace your birth partner. Doulas work as a team with both of you. During your labour, your doula may give your partner a break, and provide support and reassurance to them too.
What if I want an epidural?
That’s just fine! Doulas provide unbiased, evidence-based support. Doulas help empower you in your choices. Modern epidurals are gradual, and the medication can be controlled. Doulas will still provide physical support for comfort and positioning and continue to provide emotionally support you and your birth partner.
Doulas are not here to judge your birth plan. They are there to support you in your choices. If you would like a completely unmedicated birth, your doula will support you in that. If you decide after labour begins that you want to throw that plan out the window and get an epidural, they will support you in that too. If your plan is to get the epidural in the parking lot before ever stepping foot in the hospital, they will support you in that too. Birth is tricky and unpredictable. We are here to support you no matter what happens.
Does my doula provide medical advice?
Doulas are not medical practitioners. They may be able to provide insight from their own experience at births of what they have seen before, but their job is not medical. However, any good doula will be well aware of your birth plan and will help you achieve that and will help you communicate your desires to your medical team.
What are some doula stats?
We’re glad you asked! A number of studies have been done on doula support. Here are some of the numbers. Having a doula attend your birth can help:
- Reduce your labour time
- Reduce unnecessary interventions (Pitocin, caesareans, episiotomy, etc.)
- Improve your breastfeeding relationship and bonding with your baby from the very first moment that your baby is born
- Give your birthing partner confidence
Basically, we think that doulas are the bee’s knees. We hope you do to.
This sounds great! How do I choose a doula?
Selecting a doula is a very personal choice. Here at West End Mamas in Toronto, Newmarket, & York region we have a group of professionally-trained doulas who are ready to support you. We host monthly free doula info nights where you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of our doulas in Toronto and Newmarket, learn more about doula care and ask any questions. With our diverse team, you’ll be sure to find the right doula for you.
Ok, I'm convinced. Find me a doula!
Still need more information?
Join us at one of our Free Doula Info nights. Meet some of our doulas, get your questions answered, and meet some other mamas that are due around the same time as you. Don’t forget to check out some of our other complimentary services to help your transition to new mommy an easier and less stressful one.