Here you will find answers to some of the most common questions people have about a birthing doula.
What is a birth doula?
A birth doula is someone trained in childbirth who is there to provide support (informational, emotional and physical) to the mother throughout the birth process.
A doula is a woman who provides support to the mother and her partner or single mother that is unconditional. She will listen, and not judge, she is there to help empower you to make the right decisions that are best for you and your baby. A doula is a special part of your incredible journey of birth, doulas create a bond of trust, comfort, knowledge and positive encouragement. A doula is someone consistently with you throughout your entire labour, the relationship between you is a bond held together by sincere compassion and trust. A doula has experience recognizing cues, sounds, and facial expressions and is able to respond with the appropriate comfort encouragement.
Doulas generally hold consultations in your home or where you are most comfortable. She helps to remind your partner or support person the tools they learned in prenatal classes and doula consultations.
What does the word “doula” mean?
The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek meaning ‘woman caregiver or servant’. Throughout history women have supported other women in their community during the childbirth process, which typically took place at home. Today, professional birth doulas take on this role when mothers are looking for someone to provide the emotional and physical support they need during their birth experience.
Are doulas accepted in hospitals?
Doulas have been working in hospitals for many years and doulas have been cultivating positive relationships with staff at the hospital. Hospitals recognize us as health practitioners. Nurses are often very happy to see a doula since this can mean the client is well educated on birth matters and she has extra support in the delivery and postpartum room.
Do I need a doula if I have a midwife or I am having a home birth?
A midwife has a very different role then a doula. A midwife is your primary care provider she will take care of all your medical needs and has huge responsibilities just as an Obstetrician does. Her time is spent monitoring the baby, and charting your labour, she is responsible for the health and wellbeing of you and your baby.
Doulas will be there for you often sooner than your midwife to help you through your labour providing labour tools such as massage, breathing techniques, acupressure, doulas will never leave your side unless for a washroom break. A doula is consistent in her care for you and your partner.
If I have a doula, will my husband/partner still be able to participate in the birth?
Absolutely! The doula provides support to both the mother and her partner. She ensures the partner plays a key role in the process, to the extent he/she is comfortable.
What happens if I end up having a cesarean section?
Advocacy is extremely important whether it’s a c-section or vaginal delivery. Doulas sometimes are allowed in the operating room for support. When things are moving quickly we can help you to gain perspective of the situation and help to slow things down and take the “emergency” out of a non-emergency situation. Doulas are there to help remind the partners, doctors and nurses of your birth wishes and help to keep the mother calm and relaxed.
Doulas help to facilitate skin to skin after a c-section. This is very important for breastfeeding, bonding, temperature and blood sugar balancing for the baby.
Does a doula replace my nurse? doctor? midwife?
No. Doulas do not replace any medical personnel. Doulas do not perform any medical tests or procedures such as taking blood pressure, temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, etc. Their role is to provide comfort and support and see that the requests of the mother are being met. She can also help with communication between the family and the medical staff. A doula does not make decisions for you, but can assist with making your needs clear to the medical staff.
What are the benefits of a birth doula?
Research has shown that when a birth doula is present, labour tends to be shorter and with fewer complications. Women who use doulas report having more positive feelings about their childbirth experience. Doula assisted births have a reduced need for Pitocin to induce labour or any other delivery assistance, such as forceps or vacuum. There is also a reduction in the request for pain medications, epidurals and cesareans when a birth doula is used.
Are doulas licensed?
Although doulas are not regulated in Canada, most doulas are trained and certified by recognized organizations and attend a program generally 2 years in length. Before gaining certification a new doula must attend several births. Be sure you are hiring a certified birth doula by asking for their certification. Most organizations require re-certification after a period for 4 or 5 years to ensure the doulas skills are up-to-date. Some organizations that provide certification in Canada are: CAPPA, CBI, DONA, ICEA, and Birth Arts International.
How do I find a doula?
Any of the above organizations have a search page to locate a doula in your area. When you find some prospects (they are available around your due date), you should meet with each of them and bring along a list of questions. It is important to meet a prospective birth doula in person to make sure you are compatible. Here are some sample questions which should assist you in making your final decision.
Questions for a prospective doula:
- What type of training have you had? When? Are you certified? Which organization?
- Do you provide both prenatal and postpartum visits? How many?
- What happens during these visits?
- How many births have you attended? What was your most recent experience?
- Do you have references? Ask to speak to them.
- What types of births have you witnessed (Cesarean, epidural, VBAC, etc.)?
- What is your fee? What is included? Do you have a sliding scale or other financing option available?
- Do you have other clients due around the same time as me?
- Have you ever worked at (my) hospital and/or do you know (my) doctor/midwife?
- What type of backup arrangements do you have in case you are unable to attend the birth?
- Will you come to my home to provide labor support prior to going to the hospital?
- Which labour coping techniques do you think are the most helpful?
- How will my partner be involved?
- Can you define your role during labor and birth?