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Five surprising ways that doulas support birthing families!

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

In a 2012 survey, 27% of those who knew what doulas were but did not hire a doula for their birth said that, in hindsight, they wished they had hired one. Here are five surprising reasons to hire a birth doula you may not have thought of before!

1. Birth doulas help you prepare during pregnancy

You might assume that a birth doula only helps with, well, birth. But doulas can play an important role as families navigate the period before baby is born, too. As your belly grows, people might tell you you’re “glowing,” but if we’re honest, we know pregnancy can sometimes be really unpleasant! Doulas can teach many comfort techniques to help ease the aches and pains of pregnancy (bonus—these techniques work wonders during labor, too!). Pregnancy can also be a bewildering time emotionally. As your body changes, so does your sense of who you are now and who you will be when the baby arrives. Doulas are trained to help you understand and process the physical and emotional changes you are experiencing and adapt to your changing needs. The practical concerns of preparing for the birth of a baby can be overwhelming, too, as you consider what kind of birth you want to have and who your care team will be. Doulas know the providers and facilities in your area and can help you understand the differences between different types of care and different hospitals, birth centers, or homebirth teams. They can help you weigh your options and empower you to make informed decisions that match your values.

Doula Justine with client

2. Birth doulas support the whole family.

Doulas often hear partners ask: “Why should we hire a doula? I’ll be by her side the whole time.” Our answer? A doula’s role is not to replace the father, partner, or support person or people the birthing person has chosen to have by her side during labor. In fact, a doula’s job is to help partners as much as it is to support birthing moms. Our goal is to make room for partners during birth. Doulas are trained to guide partners and support people in the best ways to help during labor. This might mean modeling comfort measures or normalizing what’s happening in the room so the partner can feel confident and calm. As doulas, we love the families we work with, but we’re not as emotionally connected as partners who have known the birthing mom a long time, which means we can be the cool head in the room. And let’s be real—while partners are super, they’re not superhuman. Your doula will be as in tune with your partner or support person’s needs as she is with yours, so they don’t burn themselves out as they support you.

Birth Doula Justine with family

3. Birth doulas stay with you during your labor.

Birth is unpredictable. Even as we learn more and more about what happens to the human body during birth, we still can’t know ahead of time how long labor will take or what might happen over the course of a birth. Hiring a doula gives you one “known” in a sea of “unknowns”: that you’ll have an informed, caring ally by your side from the time you call her until your baby is born. The rest of your care team, while incredibly important and skilled, will be focused on the medical side of things—your health and your baby’s health. Your doula will be fully focused on your emotional and physical needs as you labor, and will use her extensive training to ease physical discomfort and pain. We are trained in centuries-old comfort measures, such as rebozo techniques used by Mexican midwives. (A rebozo is a long piece of cloth, a sort of cross between a scarf and a shawl, and is used for many purposes, including to relieve pressure on the body). We are also up-to-date on the most recent scientific evidence about positioning, movement, and comfort during labor. With training and experience in both ancient wisdom and modern research, your doula can simultaneously soothe and comfort you, offer evidence-based information, help you weigh options in your care, and be your cheerleader.

Doula Alicia K from Midwest Doulas

4. Birth doulas reduce the need for interventions and improve birth outcomes.

Doula Justine with postpartum client

Studies have indicated that hiring a doula can have a significant impact on your birthing experience. According to Evidence Based Birth, a doula supporting you during labor has been shown to shorten labor by an average of 41 minutes, decrease your risk of a C-section by 39%, and increase your likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth by 15%. Doula support impacts infant health, too—having someone provide continuous support during labor was shown to result in a 38% decrease in the baby’s risk of a low five-minute Apgar score (Apgar scores are a common immediate postpartum assessment to assess your baby’s health). Perhaps most importantly, the support of a doula has been shown to result in a 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with your birth experience. This means that, no matter what happens physically during birth, your chance of feeling satisfied with what happened increases significantly with a highly trained, informed, and empowering doula by your side.

5. Doulas help with the transition into the “fourth trimester.”

Congratulations—your baby is here! You did it. But…now what? The first three months of a new baby’s life are often called the “fourth trimester”—a time of adjustment and growth that can be as intense, if not more so, than the experience of pregnancy and birth. You may find yourself overwhelmed by a wide range of emotions when faced with the new reality of life with a newborn. Or, if this is not your first baby, you may find the transition to life with more than one child to be challenging for your whole family. Your birth doula will visit you after your baby is born and help you process those emotions, give you evidence-based information on baby care to help inform your decision-making, and generally support you as you transition into this next wonderful and challenging stage. They will also make sure you have all the resources and referrals you need to be supported as you move forward. And, if you find you want more regular emotional and physical support, many birth doulas also offer ongoing postpartum services that can extend through the first months of your baby’s life and beyond.

The bottom line? Your doula is there for you when you need her throughout pregnancy, birth, the postpartum period, and as your children grow up. Our motto at Midwest Doulas is, “Once your doula, always your doula.” When you hire a doula, you’re making an investment in the wellbeing of your entire family.

Justine Temke is the founder of Midwest Doulas. She was born and raised in France, and that unique worldview drives her passion to educate and support women. She loves to share her knowledge of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding and strives to empower women and their families by providing compassionate support during and after pregnancy. Midwest Doulas was the winner of “Best of the Twin Cities” at the 2018 Birth & Baby Expo.

Article first published 4/25/2019 on the Minnesota Birth Center Blog.

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