A Guide on Doulas and How they Can Help You During Labour and Pregnancy

If you are a mom-to-be you may be wondering whether or not a Doula will benefit you, your partner and your baby. Have you been planning every detail of your delivery including the route, what to pack, how to manage labour pain and what support people you want in the room? A growing number of moms are planning for more natural childbirth with reduced medical interventions and therefore have begun looking to midwives and doulas for support during delivery. Need to know what is a Doula, and how Doula Services will support you during natural childbirth? There are so many things to think about when you are expecting and getting ready to welcome a baby into your family, a Doula can seem like just “one more thing”, so let us help you answer you questions and decide if hiring a doula is the right decision for “YOU”!  I hope that you take a moment to read this post and really consider the goals that you have for your labour and delivery and then see if a Doula is the right fit for you.

There are many ways that a Doula can help you during labour, but lets explore what that really means. (Side note all the photos in the post are me and my actual doula – no staged photography here!)

Do You Really Need a Doula: What is a Doula?

Many parents are now reaping the benefits of hiring a doula. However, someone new to the world of doulas may not fully understand how they may be able to help you throughout your pregnancy, labour, and after the baby arrives. In order to maximize your experience with a doula it is important to understand what exactly a doula is and ways they may be able to support you in the crazy journey of becoming a parent.   So what is a doula?

What is a Doula?

A doula is a companion that is trained and experienced to provide physical, emotional and informational support to a mother and her family.  However there are several different kinds of doulas can that can help mothers during pregnancy, birthing and postpartum.

Birth doulas are a valuable resource for moms-to-be that recognize that pregnancy and birthing are an exciting yet scary time for new moms. Seriously we have to pass test to learn to drive, go to school for years to learn how to read but you are able to walk into a labour room without a clue of what to expect or how to get through your delivery in the most positive way possible.  And ladies please don’t rely strictly on your husbands/partners.  They have never given birth either or likely even seen one, so you can’t blame them when they get the deer caught in headlights look when you are in pain and they have no idea how to help you with your contractions.

I like to think of a Doula as that really great friend who you can ask questions to and they always have an answer and know how to offer you advice and support.

So what does a Birth Doula do?

  • Provide helpful information – Doulas provide a safe place to discuss birthing wishes and hopes, as well as pain management techniques.  Ask about past births they have attended at the location you are going to deliver, they will likely have some tips of what you should be bringing with you as well.
  • Answer questions – Doulas are there to answer all your questions. During pregnancy lots of changes are happening to your bodies and you don’t always know what is “normal” or not. It is reassuring to give you doula a call or send an email with your questions to help put your mind at ease.  Even with my second and third pregnancies I still had questions that I wasn’t sure of.  It was awesome being able to text my doula and get an answer quickly rather then waiting until my next midwife appointment for non-urgent issues.
  • Advocate – During labour as a mom-to-be you have other things to focus on rather the the execution of your birth plan. A doula also can be an advocate and voice for the birthing mother.  The doula can have the very important role of communicating with a partner or healthcare team to remind them of the mothers wishes and offer support along the way.
  • Help with pain management during labour – A doula also uses their knowledge and experience to provide comfort measures and physical support to a birthing mother. This can be anything from massage to counter back labour, and suggesting different positions to facilitate the progression of labour to walking the halls while the mom to be is doing “laps” to help labour along.  I was so thankful to have our doula with us when I was in labour with Little Bear, at the start my labour was a bit slow to get going so the doula and I walked the hospital as Hubs was able to to a few minutes for himself and grab breakfast.  With the doula there I was never alone and having the extra support was amazing.
  • After baby is born – a birth doula can provide you and your family with valuable information, and support in the first hours following delivery to help establish breastfeeding.  Depending on the type of services offered the doula may also come for a home visit in the first few days that you are home to answer any questions you may have about your newborn as well as offer breastfeeding support.

Common Questions about having a Doula:

First lets address 2 common questions I get when I tell people I used a Doula for Baby #2 and #3 (we planned to for #1 as well, but you can read about his preemie story here). 

  1. Can you use a Doula with an OB? – YES, you can use a Doula with an OB or a midwife.  The Doula does not replace the person who is delivering the baby, instead they help support YOU and your partner.  Not sure about the difference between a midwife and a Doula then keep reading below.
  2. Is there a cost for using a Doula?  Yes there is a cost associated with using a Doula, but as you can see I obviously thought it was worth it more then once!  You can shop around and compare what packages different Doulas offer (# of visits before delivery, after delivery support).  Also be sure to check if your insurance will cover some or all of the cost of having a Doula, especially if they are a Registered Massage Therapist.
  3. Can I still get an epidural? Yes, you are still welcome to get an epidural, Doulas support using tools to increase comfort and the experience of birth including epidurals, water births, or a medical hospital birth. Doulas also provide techniques to help you cope with the pain and discomfort of labour and delivery.

Five Ways a Doula Can Help You During Labour


ways doulas can help during pregnancy and labour = Information - Doulas are an excellent source of information on pregnancy and labour

What Does a Doula Do – How do they support you during your pregnancy and labour?

1 – Information – Doulas are an excellent source of information on pregnancy and labour

A doula can give you valuable information and resources so you can be informed and make the best decision for you and your baby.  You should be asking your important questions to a professional, not in your local moms Facebook group.  A Doula will provide information to you based on research, facts and can provide further resources if need.

A doula can provide information for the first time mom-to-be or even an experienced mom. Because doulas have an ongoing passion for everything babies and are well trained they are constantly a source of new information. Don’t be shy to ask any question as your doula will most likely have an answer or they will be able to research it for you.

You will likely meet with your Doula 1-2 times prior to your delivery and can ask many questions then.  In addition you can discuss how to reach out to your Doula with questions via text, email, or phone calls.  Being able to talk over some of my worries and questions with my Doula really helped but me at ease before my labour and delivery.

2 – Presence – Your Doula is there for YOU

A Doula will be present throughout your labour and delivery. Your Doula is the one person other then your partner, that is sure to be at your delivery.  Many OB doctors work on teams so the physician you see for your pre-natal appointments is not necessarily the one that will be delivering your baby, you will get whoever is on call that day.  It is very unlikely that you have ever met the labour and delivery nurses prior to heading to the hospital.  Even with midwifes they still work on a team, so you are not sure who will be doing your delivery.  While at the hospital there is paperwork and other tasks to be done so you care team is not with you all of the time.

A Doula will be present for a mom-to-be as much or as little as you need them.  For me it was helpful to have someone I could call during the very early stages of labour to check in and see how thing were going, and if everything was normal.  Even when my Doula was not with me she was able to give me suggestions on how to help my labor progress and feel comfortable at home before heading the to hospital.  At the hospital the Doula is with you 100% of the time (except for a bathroom break maybe!), you are never left alone to wonder what the next step is or if what is happening is normal.

I was strep B positive with baby#2 which meant that as soon as my water broke (which happened 1st for me with all 3 kids) I headed to the hospital to start IV antibiotics.  To get my labour going I walked, and walked and walked some more.  My Doula was there for every single step, my Doula was able to keep track of my contractions and give my midwives a accurate report on how things were progressing.  I am sure my husbands answer would have been things are “fine” or “I don’t know”.

The important thing is not too be scared to ask your Doula that you need them for anything. Having a baby is a personal thing and Doulas embrace how unique you and your baby are.

Doula Services

3 – Pain Management – How a Doula Can Help

Labour Pain is probably the scariest part of having a baby.  You hear horror stories, worry about what it will be like.  As a mom of 3 all delivered without pain meds, it is not a relaxing walk in the park but it can be done if that is a route you want to go.  I was able to help manage the pain with the help of my Doula.

A doula has been trained to help a mom-to-be during labour.  Doulas come prepared to your labour with many useful tips, tricks and techniques to help you with any pain or discomfort leading up to your birth.  A doula can help with anything from giving you a massage, offering counter pressure where you need or helping you get in a better position to ease pain.  I relied heavily on my Doula to give suggestions and followed here advice.  My husband, like the majority of partners, is not a labour expert.  He wanted to help, but did know HOW, the Doula was able to be there with both of us and offer real time advice and help him help me.

Doulas know best way to use Rebozo (like a scarf), birthing balls, rollers,  massage, and TENS machine (depending on location this may be in their scope of practice) to help you progress during your labour and manage your pain.Doula Services

4 – Shorter Labour and Fewer Complications

If someone told you that your labour could be 25% shorter and have fewer complications by just doing 1 thing would you want to know what it is??? Heck yes!  The answer is having continuous support during labour and delivery by trained professional.  And how do you get that support – A DOULA!  Having a doula as part of your birth team been shown to decrease overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40%, and decrease in negative childbirth experiences.  Don’t believe me, here are resources to read more about it here and here.

Doulas have been trained to help a woman be more emotionally and physically comfortable. When a mom-to-be is more comfortable her body can help the labour progress and she is able to focus more on giving birth.  Also, a Doula knows many strategies and tricks to help  your labour progress so you don’t stall and require additional interventions. With all of the tips and tricks offered by a qualified Doula there can be fewer complications and risks for you and your baby.

Doula Services

5 – Advocate – Doula’s can be your voice

One of the most wonderful roles of a doula that benefits a mom-to-be is that she can be your voice when you need it most.  Most doulas talk to you before your labour to form birth plans and birth wishes.  Because a doula is well versed on your hopes about labour they can act as a go between with your partner and other healthcare providers such as your OB or midwife.  A doula will advocate for your and your baby.  When being asked questions about your care they are a calm presence that can help guide you.

For me having my Doula there helped me make decisions regarding if I wanted to start oxytocin with labour with baby #2.  We declined and did some additional walking, squats to help my labor progress and my son was born a couple of hours later without any additional interventions. Having her advice and support helped me feel confident in my decisions. Doula Services

People are sometimes to hear we used a doula for baby #2 and #3, because we were already “experienced” parents.  Let me tell you, going through 1 birth does not make you an expert, and having the support of my Doula is what made births #2 and 3 go so smoothly. Don’t get me wrong I LOVED my midwives, and they offered excellent care, this was just an additional layer of support focused only on me as the mom-to-be. 

Should you get a Doula?

Getting a Doula is going to be a personal choice, however I totally recommend a Doula if it will fit into your budget (remember to check your health coverage for doula or RMT services).  You spend time preparing and planning for everything else when it comes to having a baby, and while it may “only be 1 day” having the support you need during your labour and delivery makes a world of difference. And think, your wedding was only 1 day and how much did you spend on that?!?  My husband has told multiple people that the money for the Doula is the best purchase we made for the baby, and I agree.

Depending on the services offered your Doula will likely stay with you during the first hour or so after delivery to help you establish breastfeeding, and answer any other questions you have about your newborn.  You can also get postpartum doula services for at home after the baby is born if that is a service you think you will need. These are 5 ways a Doula can help you during labour and pregnancy. If you have more questions about doulas or my personal experience ask in the comments below or reach out to a local doula.

Benefits of Using a Doula?

Using a Doula during pregnancy and childbirth can not only benefit the mother but can also support the couple as a whole.

  • Extra set of hands: Giving massages, getting ice chips, giving the partner or spouse a break
  • Parents feel supported and prepared for childbirth which helps reduce the anxiety leading up to birth
  • Comfort of having someone to support your exact wishes and needs during childbirth
  • Decreased use of medical interventions including epidurals
  • Support during latching and breastfeeding which can be a challenge in itself for new moms
  • Increase confidence to take care of a newborn
  • Pregnancy massage for mothers and newborn massage for baby

Why I decided I wanted a Doula at the Birth of my Children:

Just like no two children are alike, no two pregnancies and births are exactly the same. Having a doula at your delivery adds an experiences support person who is there “just for you”.  It is important to find a doula that you connect with and feel comfortable with, afterall this is a person who is going to be with you at one of the most important events of your life.

After having a doula at my second birth (we planned to have one with my first as well, but you know Monkey had other plans) it was a no-brainer to hire her again for the birth of Baby Roo.  If you are in the Toronto area my doula was Kristi from Helping Hand Doula, and I have recommended her to several friends who have used her as well.

If you are debating whether or not you feel as though a doula is right for you, you’re not alone. However, studies show that when a doula is present during labour and delivery there are less complications and labour is generally shorter (a huge plus in my books!). Questions about having a doulas or what it was like using a doula – ask away in the comments below!


Doula support during breastfeeding

My Doula that we used for the births of Bear and Roo was Kristi Clements from Helping Hands Doula Services which offer services in the Greater Toronto Area.  Kristi is an RMT with over a decade of Doula experience.  She was an amazing addition to our birth team and answered all of my questions and partnered well with my midwives.  I have recommended Kristi to friends and coworkers who have also used her services.

What is the difference between a midwife and a doula?

This is a question I get asked often when people hear that I had a Midwife AND a Doula at the births of Little Bear and Baby Roo.  When you are expecting a baby there are lots of choices to be made along the way, but one of the first you will make is who will care for you during your pregnancy.  In many areas women have the choice between having an Obstetrician (OB) or a Midwife – those are the 3 medically trained healthcare professions that can care for women for the duration of her pregnancy.  However people get a little more confused when it comes to the roles of a  Midwife and a Doula.  They are often spoken about but how exactly are they different?

Difference between a Midwife and a Doula

Midwife

A midwife is a medically trained healthcare provider that has been trained to be an expert in low risk birth. Midwives go to school specifically for midwifery and learn both in class and through clinical based experience. Midwives in both Canada and the United States of America must hold a current certification from their governing bodies. Therefore, a midwife is a licensed medical professional that has a government based license and set scope of practice that they are held accountable for. That means that a midwife has clearly defined roles in prenatal care and birthing that they must be responsible for. Midwives are also able to prescribe certain medications and interventions. Midwives typically can be present at home births, in the hospital or a birthing centre, depending on where they have privileges.

The midwife is the person you will see for prenatal visits during your pregnancy, and who will help you deliver your baby.  Midwives often follow their patients for several weeks after delivery as well to do weight checks, and help with breastfeeding support if needed.

Doula

A doula is a birthing companion that is able to offer support and be there for a mom-to-be by providing intimate care to both a mother and baby.  A doula is able to provide information, advocate and make sure that a birthing mom is both physically and emotionally comfortable as possible during delivery.  I think of a doula like an amazing friend who is going to give your advice when you need it, answer all of your “stupid” questions without laughing, and has lots of experience of helping moms-to-be to achieve the delivery that they want.  A doula does NOT replace a healthcare professional like a midwife or an OB, they cannot do medical procedures or give you a prescription.  What a doula does do, is give you a support of someone who knows what to expect, can offer many different pain management strategies, and helps take the pressure off your partner from knowing “what to do”.   Most women who hire a doula recognize the benefits of having an extra companion who is trained and able to devote extra time and effort towards you and your baby.  

Hopefully this helps clear up some of the midwife/doula confusion.  Both can work as a TEAM to help you achieve a healthy pregnancy and delivery of your little one.  You can also have a doula when you are being cared for by an OB as well. 

Are you planning to use a midwife or doula for your delivery?  Or did you for a past birth? Check out our Directory of Doula’s:

Doula Services in Brampton

 

Doula Services in Mississauga

 

Doula Services in Toronto

 

Five Ways a Doula Can Help You During Labour and Pregnancy

Pregnancy/Childbirth Related Topics:

 

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