The road to wellness isn't straight, clear, or predictable. It's a path you forge yourself.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is a doula anyway?

Yesterday, I attended a class about having a doula assist with childbirth.  I had heard of doulas before, but I wasn't clear on what they actually did. Basically, they are professional childbirth coaches.  They are different from midwives because they don't do medical interventions and the don't replace the doctor.  They work with doctors and nurses.  Their main concern is helping the mother during the birth by calming her and keeping her as comfortable as possible. ("Mothering the mother")

Natural Childbirth:
Yes, I am one of those people who thinks natural childbirth is probably the best.  I mean, our bodies are designed to do this, right?  Sure, it's not the most comfortable thing in the world but the pain isn't life threatening and the recovery is so much better if you don't have an epidural or a c-section.  HOWEVER,  I have never had a baby before so I have  no idea of what the pain will be like.  I may get in there and decide I can't deal with the pain and demand an epidural ASAP.  A doula can help by suggesting comfort measures like breathing exercises, various positions, heat, massage, acupressure, and a variety of other techniques.  I think my best chance of actually having a natural childbirth is if I have a doula cheering me on.   

Doulas Offer:
  • assistance with preparation of a birth plan
  • information, encouragement, and support during the last weeks of pregnancy
  • emotional and physical support for mom and partner during labor and birth
  • explanation of medical procedures and choices
  • techniques and hands-on help with comfort measures
  • support for the father/partner
  • continuous one-on-one support during the entire birth
  • support during the early postpartum period
Why I want one:

The doula who was teaching the class I attended did a demonstration with a model of a pelvis and a baby doll.  She showed how the "flat on your back" position (that the hospitals normally force you to be in) can actually prevent the baby from getting into the correct position.  Gravity works against you.  She then showed various positions that can use gravity on your side to assist the body in getting that baby into the best possible position for delivery.  Once she was done with that demo I thought, "I want a doula and I want her!"

Things I did not know:
  • The early labor contractions are not supposed to get the baby out.  They are supposed to get it into the correct position.  If the baby can't get there, the labor is long and drawn out and doesn't progress.
  • Most problems resulting in neccessary c-sections happen because the baby can't get into the correct position in the pelvis.
  • A chiropractor can help make the labor go faster by adjusting the pelvis and making sure it's in alignment.  (BEFORE labor starts, of course!) The doula recommended that I go see a specific chiropractor and have one pelvis adjustment now, then another one a few weeks before the due date.  Having the pelvis in alignment will help that baby go through more quickly and smoothly. 
  • Many hospitals have birthing tubs these days.  The hospital where I'm going to deliver does not do water births, but they do have birthing tubs for use during labor.  (They are not automatically offered and you have to specifically ask for them.)  Apparently, getting into a tub of hot water can reduce labor pains by as much as 50%!  The doula can act as an agent and will call the hospital in advance to have the room set up with the tub, birthing ball, pull-up bar, and "all the toys".
  • A doula can act as a "bouncer" if there are people in the room that start to stress you out.  That way, the doula is the "bad guy" and not you!   
  • A doula can help calm the husband.  This is great especially if this is the first baby, and he has no idea what's going on.  She can also suggest techniques for him to help in the process.
  • The doula is hired by you.  She works for YOU and not the hospital.  Unlike a nurse, who may have 2 or 3 other patients at a time, you are the only patient for a doula at one time.  She stays with you during the whole birth process.  This alone comforts me a lot.
  • The doula will NOT get in the way if you do decide to have an epidural or if you have to have a c-section. 
The cost isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  (I'm sure it varies depending on where you live.)  Just to give you a ballpark figure though, my doula is going to cost a $600 flat rate.  It includes a meeting prior to the birth and the entire birth.  If  it lasts 2 hours, it's $600.  If it's 38 hours, it's $600.  I think this is a good deal.

I'm convinced that having a doula is the right choice for me.  Anyone out there ever work with one?  I'd be curious to hear about your experiences.

Intrigued?  For more info, check out the International Doula site: