What is a Doula?
I was introduced to the concept of a doula during my first pregnancy as I Googled, “what the eff happens to your vagina during childbirth?!” Doula is a Greek word meaning ‘woman’s servant,’ and their presence at birth is proven to have a positive impact on the labor process. While neither of my births went as planned, our doula was part of the reason I avoided a cesarean and that alone had me drinking all the doula Kool-Aid. In fact, I drank so much of it that I now have ‘Certified Doula’ next to my name and it is a privilege to witness the power of women as they bring life into this world.
The Role of the Doula
Even though the doula profession is exploding, there still seems to be some mystery about who we are. Many assume we are midwives, but doulas have nothing to do with the medical aspects of pregnancy or birth. Doulas process hopes and fears, empower you with information, and connect you with resources. They help create an environment of calm, respect your right to informed choice, and provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support as you navigate labor, birth and early postpartum.
Birth is exciting, but it can also be scary AF, and a doula’s presence can significantly calm your nerves and keep you focused on the job at hand. Some people assume they will receive the necessary support from their partner, but partners are often just as scared (if not more so), and a doula can help you BOTH navigate the unknown and empower your partner to better support you on the journey.
While doulas are certainly badass women that you want on your support team, you still want to be thoughtful about who you allow front row seats to your vagina. It’s important to choose a professional with the right expertise, but also someone that you feel connected to. Most doulas offer a free consultation to get acquainted and you should use this interview to make sure you feel comfortable around her.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Doula
1. Trust your gut.
You certainly want someone that is certified and has experience but keep in mind that the right doula for you may not be the one who has attended the most births. Many of the benefits you gain from hiring a doula have less to do with the number of women she’s already supported, and more to do with the quality of the relationship you have with her. Try to think of questions that will give you insight into how she supports women, such as asking her what she enjoys most about her work, as well as what she finds most challenging.
2. Learn about her birth philosophy.
A common misconception is that doulas only support natural birth. Yes, doulas are birth nerds and geek out over the normal, biological process of childbirth, but this knowledge benefits ALL women! They are informed on stages of labor, what interventions might be necessary, the risks and benefits involved, and can explain these things in normal language, not confusing medical speak. A well-trained doula is prepared to support all types of birth, cesarean included. If a cesarean birth were to occur, a doula would support you just as she would in a normal labor setting. She can explain procedures, physically support you through an epidural, and provide continuous emotional support that a doctor or nurse can’t provide during surgery. No matter your birth plan, a doula’s presence can improve outcomes so ask questions that can tell you more about her birth philosophy, such as what type of births she is comfortable attending.
3. Get recommendations!
Again, you will receive the most benefit from a doula you “click” with, and while the interview is important for gauging your comfort and connection with her, you can also gain a great deal of insight by listening to past client’s experiences. Gather recommendations from friends, family, your care provider, or even other doulas. Maybe your bestie highly recommends a doula that isn’t available for your due date, but you can still reach out to that doula for referrals! Most doulas not only have a backup doula they know and trust to attend their births in an emergency, but they also surround themselves with other support professionals that align with their skills and birth philosophy.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately you will find that most doulas are kickass empathic humans who are passionate about serving women, so choosing to hire one is nothing but beneficial for your birth. If you want to learn more or need help finding a doula in your area, check out Doulamatch.net. Also, I wouldn’t recommend clicking any images on a Google search about vaginas, but your lady bits are super resilient — they should heal just fine, promise. Especially if you take stock in some padsicles, which will become your new best friends postpartum.