Being an expecting mother is a hugely personal experience. No matter what your doctors, relatives or friends say, nobody can quite describe the unique emotional and psychological journey you’ll have when carrying a child or tell you everything to expect when you actually go into labour.
Having a doula along with you for the ride might help your journey feel less frightening. Here’s what to know about whether you might benefit from the services of one of these nonmedical specialists.
What Does a Doula Do?
A doula, from the Greek expression for handmaiden, is a professional whose training covers the comprehensive birth, labour and postpartum processes. These experts don’t serve a medical function or make decisions on behalf of a mother-to-be, but they provide invaluable support that can result in a birthing experience that’s both empowering and safe. By answering the mother’s questions and helping her plan out the birth, they make the event feel less uncertain.
What Can I Expect From My Doula?
Doulas perform various services, and each one strives to establish a personal relationship with the parents. For instance, your doula may work to assuage your fears and educate you on what to expect. After labour, they can help you get used to basic infant care practices, such as learning how to feed your baby correctly, including breastfeeding, and even introducing your new baby to its siblings.
Your doula will provide critical emotional and physical support. For instance, someone who’s going through a high-risk pregnancy may work with an antepartum doula who helps them make sure that things are progressing as smoothly as possible. Most doulas also assist with incidental, often-overlooked aspects of being pregnant and giving birth, such as massaging you, ensuring you maintain the right posture and providing water.
What Are the Advantages of Having a Doula?
Doulas are commonly referred to as birth coaches, but their role goes further than guiding moms through deliveries. Before labour, they can help the mother by giving her continuous care that may improve outcomes. For instance, one 2015 study found that care provided by experienced, trained doulas helped mothers achieve positive goals like
- Increasing the duration of healthy breastfeeding,
- Reducing income-, education- and social-based disparities in healthcare available to mothers, and
- Making the birth experience more satisfying.
A Historically Sound Custom
The idea that having a doula is better for the baby and mother alike may have a long history of practical experience behind it. In 2013, for instance, researchers noted that the continuous support provided by doulas had clinically meaningful benefits for women and no harmful impacts. This study’s authors also pointed out that historically, women had the support of other women during labour even if such arrangements have fallen out of common practice in more recent times.
Modern medicine can take an extremely clinical approach to birth — This is a simple matter of necessity and health, but it leaves out the one-to-one emotional care that human society seems to have evolved with. Considering that professional bodies like the U.K.’s Royal College of Midwives stand behind mothers who choose to retain doulas for nonclinical support, it seems clear that these professionals serve a valuable, unmet function.
Making Pregnancy More Rewarding
Everyone has a different pregnancy journey, but one common thread is that a mother’s perceptions and expectations play a significant role in how they view it afterward. For instance, Australian mothers who had been through one or more pregnancies were found to have more positive birthing experiences when they actively participated in the decision-making process. Women who had supportive maternity healthcare were able to maintain more positive outlooks even when they didn’t achieve all of their childbirth expectations as planned.
Doulas might play a crucial role in making positive experiences more likely. Because they equip soon-to-be and new moms with more information and guidance, they help put their minds at ease. Although it’s impossible to anticipate every potential outcome of a pregnancy, staying informed along the way seems far better than venturing off into the unknown.
Getting the Birth Partner Involved
One of the lesser-known advantages of having a doula is that they bring fathers and other birth partners in on the process. These individuals may find themselves at a total loss for how to respond and be helpful. Doulas who’ve been around many births can impart some of their wisdom to make being a supportive parent feel less frightening and awkward.
Creating a Welcoming Birth Environment
Mothers have the right to choose the environment where they decide to bring children into the world, but midwives, doctors and nurses can only do so much. Accommodating your personal needs isn’t really their job, and asking them to do so might interfere with their ability to stay focused on the task at hand — delivering your baby healthily.
Those who choose to have at-home or in-hospital births can depend on their doulas to tailor the setting to their preferences as much as possible. From providing soothing music and adjusting lighting to ensuring that mothers have constant support, they transform labour into a more familiar experience.
Are You Expecting?
Having a doula is just one way to cultivate a birth experience that keeps you feeling empowered and in charge. To learn more about your birth, labour and postpartum doula options in the Toronto region, reach out to the compassionate staff at Padma Yogi today.