Doula FAQ

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_tta_accordion style=”flat” shape=”square” spacing=”5″ active_section=”0″ collapsible_all=”true”][vc_tta_section title=”What is a Doula?” tab_id=”1487293809914-bc7ea602-a195″][vc_column_text]A Doula is a woman who gives support, help, and advice to another woman during pregnancy and the birth of her child and were traditionally servants that were skilled in attending women in labour. Modern day doulas are often mothers themselves, who offer continuous physical and emotional support to a pregnant woman and her family throughout gestation and the birth of the baby. Doulas see the value in having continuous, one on one support and connection during this time and the difference it can make to the birthing mother’s experience and outcome.

Birth is a highly emotional journey for most women and their partners, and to have someone dedicated to supporting that aspect through the entire journey is invaluable. The care, respect, comfort and information that a doula provides is a role onto it’s own and cannot be replaced by other health care providers.

Doulas are fast becoming a must-have companion for birthing women, particularly in the hospital setting, who want a natural or vaginal birth and need assistance navigating the hospital system of medical procedures and protocols. Surprisingly to some, there is a big difference between a vaginal birth and a natural birth, and it will vary on your own interpretation of what natural birth means to you. For some women, a natural birth is a baby born vaginally. This can include the use of drugs, instrumental delivery and episiotomy’s. For others, it is a vaginal birth without any intervention. Completely uninterrupted and unhindered birth, sometimes even free from vaginal exams during labour.

In Victoria, there are a variety of situations in which people choose to give birth: for example at home with a Private Midwife, a public hospital labour ward under Midwifery care, or a private hospital under the care of an Obstetrician. A doula can support you anywhere you choose to be.

A doula is an ambassador for natural birth, they see the link between an empowering birth and a smooth transition into motherhood; and ultimately a nurturer of the future generation for this planet. A doula will also support you to have an empowering caesarean should it be necessary. Giving a birthing woman options through the whole process no matter what path your birth takes is extremely empowering.

Doulas are not Midwives, Obstetricians, or Nurses. But together with these professionals, doulas work to support a woman through her birth. While the focus of the medical team involves safeguarding the physical health of both mother and baby, a doula focuses on the holistic well being of the mother. Doulas offer comfort measures, loving touch, encouraging words, and serve as a spiritual support at a most transformative time in a woman’s life. Doulas work from a place of gentleness and calm through any situation to provide women with an anchor on her birthing journey.

Doulas know how the birthing body works, and have a tool kit of positions, movements, touches, techniques, and endless ideas on how you can engage with your natural birthing powers.

A doula has usually undertaken specific training either in a face to face setting of a training course, or an online course which are becoming more popular. There are also women who have given birth several times themselves who know enough about birth to offer support to other birthing women without having completed the actual training. If the type of training your doulas has done is important to you, it is a good idea to ask where she completed her training and with whom, before you employ her as your support person.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What are the benefits of having a Doula?” tab_id=”1487293810054-81c84acc-8d65″][vc_column_text]There are many benefits to having a doula be with you during your pregnancy and birth. Some expected, and others not. Women often find that a doula provided way more than what was expected and have a sense that they don’t know how they could have done it without a doulas support. Having a doula provides you with a direct line of information, options and resources. It’s like having your own personal birth hotline! Most doulas are constantly available to you by phone and email during your pregnancy, on top of your pre natal face-to-face appointments, and then on call 24/7 from 38 weeks onwards. A good doula will help you fully understand all of your options and choices at every crossroad in your journey, and this results in a fully informed process where even if your birth does not go to plan, you will have benefitted immensely by knowing your choices, options and rights through the whole process, leaving you feeling empowered and like it was still YOUR birth. Being informed allows you to be an active participant in the decision making for your birth.

Another benefit is actually for your partner. Unless your partner has done some special training, intensive research or attended many births before, they will not have the skills or knowledge to support you through what may be one of the toughest things you have ever done. This pressure to be and do all for their loved one can often feel like quite a load to carry or they may feel anxious or concerned about how they are going to cope AND be your everything all at once. If you were going to climb Mt Everest would you want your partner (having never climbed Mt Everest themselves) as your trainer or main support? Or would you employ a specific mountain climbing coach or trainer to help you?[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What is the evidence?” tab_id=”1487294463817-f433794d-2736″][vc_column_text]Evidence shows that the most important thing is for women to have continuous labor support from someone– whether that person is a nurse, midwife, partner, or doula. However, with several birth outcomes, doulas have a greater effect than other support persons.

According to a study by Marshall H.Klaus, MD, John H. Kennell, MD and Phyllis H.Klaus, CSW, MFT (2002). Research has shown that Doulas improve the overall outcome and experience of women giving birth. There have been many studies into the impact of continuous social support during birth and these have shown some amazing benefits!

50% decrease in caesarean sections
25% decrease in the length of labour
30% decrease in use of forceps
40% decrease in use of oxytocin to speed labour up
60% decrease in use of epidurals
30% decrease in use of pain medications

Increased rates of breastfeeding at 6 weeks post-partum

Higher self-esteem, less anxiety and less depression at 6 weeks post-partum

On top of these benefits, when women feel loved and held through their birth experience, their ability to trust and follow their maternal instincts and bond with their newborn are deeply strengthened. This is true even when plans unfold in unexpected ways. If the energy surrounding a birthing woman is positive, loving and kind, the mother internalises these qualities as she nurtures her child.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What does a Doula do?” tab_id=”1487294552684-127a4bda-71a0″][vc_column_text]Provides emotional support

Uses comfort measures: massage, touch, breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning, oils, music, lighting

Gives information

Continuously reassures and comforts the mother (the key word is continuous)

Helps a mother become informed about various birth choices

Helps facilitate communication between the woman and care provider

Guides your partner on how to best support you and cares for your partner as well (gives them bathroom/food/sleep breaks so that they can be energised and awake when you need them the most)[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What doesn’t a Doula do?” tab_id=”1487295388799-ca6d8318-f05d”][vc_column_text]Doulas specialise in non-medical skills and DO NOT perform clinical tasks, such as vaginal exams or foetal heart rate monitoring. Doulas do not diagnose medical conditions, offer second opinions, or give medical advice. Doulas are NOT able to advocate directly to the care provider for you or on your behalf during your birth, but do provide and prepare you and your partner with all the information you need to advocate for yourselves.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”How is a Doula different than a midwife/spouse or friend/family member?” tab_id=”1487295381972-591dd3cb-aa4a”][vc_column_text]A midwife is the person in charge of your and your baby’s medical wellbeing. Whilst they may occasionally get a chance to offer you words of encouragement and a heat pack, they are usually busy with monitoring you and your baby’s medical signs. Taking blood pressure, temperature checks, baby’s heart rate monitoring, watching your contractions, vaginal exams, making sure you have everything in the room set up for birth, and also ducking out and helping midwives with other birthing women from time to time. Not only is the midwife not always in the room with you, but also when s/he is, they have a routine list of medical assessments they have to stick to. Please note that this is NOT the typical role of an Independent Midwife if you are birthing at home or taking one to hospital with you as your support person.

What about my husband or partner? Does a doula replace my most intimate labour companion? No way! While a doula “mothers the mother” through the birth process, the partner also deeply benefits from her presence. Often partners become more involved in supporting a birthing woman as they learn and adopt many of the doula’s comforting techniques. A doula’s presence frees the partner from feeling like they must be expert support in an entirely new and challenging situation. If the labour is particularly trying, difficult, or emotionally charged, a doula’s presence soothes nerves and raises a birthing couple’s confidence.

A friend or family member is a lovely idea if you feel they have something to offer you in your birth. If you are inviting them in because you want them to gain something from being at your birth, it’s not a good idea. You need to surround yourself with strong, supportive people who are going to be your rock. Some women feel they ‘should’ invite their mothers to their birth and it is often a very confronting situation where not only is it hard for a mother to witness her daughter in a highly emotional and physically taxing state, but it can also trigger the mother back into her own birth/s which could then charge the energy in the birthing space. Mothers and daughters are usually very in sync energetically and although your mother may just sit there quietly and not say anything, you will feel her energy and if it’s not in alignment with what you need at that time, it could be a massive emotional trigger. A friend or family member, unless also a birth worker, will also not have the specific training or tools that a doula has.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Why are they so effective?” tab_id=”1487295547851-40c2f8e5-b8f2″][vc_column_text]Ever since birth moved out of the home and into the hospital, women have been giving birth in conditions that can be described as quite clinical. In the hospital, labouring women are frequently submitted to institutional routines, high intervention rates, care providers who are strangers, lack of privacy, bright lighting, and needles. Most of us would have a hard time dealing with these conditions when we’re feeling our best, but women in labour have to deal with these conditions when they are in their most vulnerable state. These conditions may slow down a woman’s labour and decrease the woman’s self-confidence. It is thought that a doula “buffers” this environment by providing continuous support and companionship, which promotes the mother’s self-esteem. With continuous support, women are less likely to request epidurals or pain medication. Women who have a doula are statistically more likely to feel less pain when a doula is present. By avoiding epidural anaesthesia, women may avoid many other medical interventions that often go along with an epidural, including synthetic augmentation and continuous electronic fetal monitoring and instrumental deliveries.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What training have you completed?” tab_id=”1487295546614-db7950e0-b79a”][vc_column_text]I completed the Birthing Wisdom doula training with Rhea Dempsey in 2009.  I have also attended many birth focused workshops and like to stay up to date with current protocols and information around the birth culture in Melbourne. My own journey of birthing my three children plus the many births I have attended since my training have shown me how many variables of birth exist and no two births are alike.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”My partner feels unsure about bringing a stranger into our birth space, is that normal?” tab_id=”1487295545107-c3312bfc-dc72″][vc_column_text]Yes! Absolutely, it’s actually more common than not. You see, a lot of men (and women) feel funny about inviting strangers to share their birthing space as it’s their special day, the day their baby is born. I also think in general, male partners put quite a bit of pressure on themselves to be the only support a birthing woman needs, to fulfil on their role as provider and be their woman’s ‘everything’. To look after her and provide for her. Usually first time partners don’t even realise what will be required of them on the day/s of birth and they will be just as vulnerable and unsure as you are.

A birthing woman has endorphins pumping through her system to keep her going, often through many hours without rest or sleep. Partners unfortunately don’t get these endorphins and often need to rest or take breaks to re-fill their energy levels so that they can keep giving to their woman.

Having a doula there can provide unwavering support to the birthing woman when her partner needs to eat, toilet, rest or make a call to family. As a doula I also am very mindful of always encouraging connection and suggestions for the partners so that they feel useful and know what you might be needing. The other thing to understand too is that if you are birthing within a hospital setting you may have many ‘strangers’ coming an going during your birth. Change of midwives, student midwives, registrars, obstetrician’s, anaesthetists, the lunch lady, paediatrician’s… many people you have never met before, so it’s not just gong to be you and your partner in the room on the day anyway.

Why not have a continuous person who you already have built a strong connection and rapport with, who knows all of your wishes, fears and having witnessed your pregnancy journey as a valuable member of your birthing team. Most partners I meet are often unsure about having a doula, but once I meet with them and they hear first hand the benefit of having me attend your birth and feel how comfortable it can be, it’s a no brainer. By the end of our journey together I usually feel very close and connected with you both and most partners have reported that they couldn’t have done it without me.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”What happens if I end up birthing in theatre? Are you able to stay with me?” tab_id=”1487295757034-55eca14e-80d7″][vc_column_text]This depends on the hospital, on the staff, on the day. Most of the time there is only 1 support allowed to accompany a women into theatre, which will be your partner. I am allowed to wait and meet you either in recovery, if the theatre staff allow it, otherwise I have to wait on the ward until you return to your room after recovery. I have occasionally been allowed into theatre but it is uncommon. Should this be something of particular importance to you I recommend that we have a further conversation at one of our appointments to discuss options.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”How can you support me if I end up choosing pain relief/epidural in my labour?” tab_id=”1487295749711-322d2337-6180″][vc_column_text]A lot of the time a woman will request an Epidural simply because she needs a break or rest. She is feeling ‘done’ and can’t go on. I will support you fully through your labour no matter what decision you make or change along the way. This is YOUR birth. It is important to still be mindful of anything that can aid in the birth moving forward in the right direction even while on an Epidural. Things like slight positional changes can make a difference, a nice calm and dim environment for rest and recuperation. Or perhaps some music, massage or pampering. Or even leaving you alone to sleep or rest whilst I focus on maintaining the peaceful and calm environment within your space is a massive contribution. I have a peanut ball which is amazing for labouring with an epidural as it gives you more options than just being on your back. You always have options and I will give them to you right through your birth. If you decide to have an Epidural, I want that to be the best Epidural possible for you so that it helps move you forward on the path intended.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Can you perform vaginal exams or monitor my baby for me at home?” tab_id=”1487296002401-87221383-02ad”][vc_column_text]These to procedures fall under the guide of medical care which I am not trained for. Only an Independent midwife could perform these within your home. Please note I am not trained in first aid or medical care and if I was with you and something happened we would need to call an ambulance to await their guidance and care.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”How can you help my partner support me in labour?” tab_id=”1487296047052-2d45175a-fb47″][vc_column_text]I can encourage your partner to complete practical tasks such as offering water after each contraction, or a cold flannel, or direct some massage. I can also help your partner connect to you with gentle suggestions of opportunities for intimacy and love. Often simply by having a doula with you, a partner relaxes knowing they have some guidance and direction in how to best support you. Also knowing they can take short breaks without leaving you alone is a massive relief and they will be much more useful to you if they are nourished, rested and as relaxed as possible through the process.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”How can you be my doula and my birth photographer at the same time?” tab_id=”1487296164244-5bde8d5c-30fb”][vc_column_text]There are many many times during the labour where I have words of encouragement and physical offerings to contribute to you, however there are other times where you will be in your zone and to leave you alone and simply hold space is my best support. In these times I see many beautiful things unfold. I see partners step in where love is permeating the space, I see a strong woman, daringly doing the work to bring her baby earthside, and I see little details of beauty and wonder that you might not even notice or remember from the day. These are the moments I like to capture and document for your own memory of the day you met your child. The only time where my role as a doula and a photographer clash is when baby is literally being born. I can not be physically supporting you to push, or breathing with you whilst taking photos. If you are interested in having me be your doula and birth photographer, we will have a conversation during your pregnancy around what is more important to you at that particular time. The support, or the images.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_accordion][/vc_column][/vc_row]