Friday, March 28, 2014

Birth Series ::: Get a doula


What is a doula? 
I like to think of a doula as a birthing lawyer. One wouldn’t walk into a major court case without a lawyer {advocate}, so why would someone think about birthing without an advocate. Some people prepare their husbands to be the ‘doula,’  -  in all honesty, I can't think of anyone I know who had an intentional natural birth without a doula. I do however know all too many people who wanted their husbands to be their doula and then for various reasons ended up with a c-section. 

The word doula comes from the Greek word doulos - meaning servant. They are solely there to help you work through contractions and also act as a moral support. Doulas are not medical professionals. Doulas become doulas because they want women to have good birth experiences. I think I'd hire a doula even if I were to ever get an epidural.

Before I had Simon, I would often joke that I got a doula for Tom's sake - I joked that he would need someone to take care of him. He's uh, rather squeamish, when it comes to blood, and I was sure I'd need a doula because I'd be in no condition to help him. Turns out Tom was a champ and physically helped me through all my laboring - but he wouldn't have known what to do if it weren't for our doula who showed him how to push my hips together to relieve pain.

Why you should get a doula:

- because having your husband be your doula is a bad idea {there, I said it. And my husband would agree}. Husbands are emotionally involved; they aren't trained to help you throughout labor. And unless your husband is a doula or midwife or OB, they've probably never attended a birth {if this is your first pregnancy}. Tom and I have said countless times that we wouldn’t have been able to have the births we've had without doulas. Even though we both took the birthing class, were educated about natural birth -  when the wife is in pain and that husband wants to protect her, both people basically forget everything they’ve learned {that's been our experience}. Even though I've had great births, I would get a doula again if we get pregnant again.

Some husbands want to 'be the doula' for their wives, they want to be the source of strength and help - like I said, I know of few examples where this resulted in a natural birth. I know examples of women who don't even want to be around their husbands during birth {like I said, envision Medea gone wild}, so a doula is a good source of support. Some women just feel more comfortable having another woman there.

- because doulas are trained to help you. They have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves, believe me. They know which positions to try, how to help alleviate pain, they're trained to navigate the system, they know which questions to ask to make sure you don't get unnecessary 'treatment' or inductions. They want to help you be as comfortable as possible.

- because a doula understands the system, you have hired someone who can answer questions about interventions or procedures that are being suggested. 

- because a doula has done this before. They are experienced and know how to meet your emotional and physical needs during birth. 

- because it's good to have another body in the room. It has been my experience that most nurses are hands-off in terms of helping you work through contractions. My experience with them is mainly that they come in to monitory my vitals; not to mention that they almost always have at least one other patient their tending to - and if your husband needs a break or is hungry, you're not left in the room alone. There's someone else in the room to get ice chips and to basically serve you and your husband.

- because one of the benefits of going natural is that you're not strapped to a bed and can move around and help your baby move down/out.  My doulas have served as birth “directors” as well as lawyers. A doula will instruct you when to move around, when to go to the bathroom, will aid in pushing your hips and apply back pressure to alleviate pain. If we didn't have our 'director' I think I would have just been like, ugh... what do I do now?

- because doulas have great dr recommendations. They know which doctors are actually pro-natural and which ones to stay away from.

- because they're with you throughout pregnancy and birth and even visit you after birth to see how you're doing! With both of my doulas, I asked them questions throughout pregnancy, they were  a source of moral support as well as helped with practical questions. Both of my doulas have been people I trusted, and the sense of 'security' and peace of mind I got from them is irreplaceable.

- because sometimes you have a nurse who you're just not really meshing with. Women often don't know that they have the right to request a different nurse if the nurse's personality doesn't mesh with theirs. Or if a nurse is being pushy about pit or an epidural - a doula will probably pick up on this before you do, and a doula can go to the charge nurse to request someone else for you {let them do the dirty work - and they willingly will}.

- because doctors generally don't show up until you're ready or almost ready to push. Doulas are with you from the beginning of labor until the very end - they can even help with breastfeeding. They'll even come to your house to help you labor there! 

- because my doctor, who was 100% on board with natural birth, recommended one! With Ragan I thought, hey, I've done this before, Tom's done this before, I completely trust my doctor, so no need to spend the money on a doula - wrong. When I asked my doctor, she said, yes, still get a doula. You just never know what kind of nurse you're going to get and often labors usually progress faster with a doula because they are working with you to get that baby out.

*All of the above has been in reference to a birth doula, but did you know that you can also hire a postpartum doula who can help with post-birth issues like breastfeeding, scheduling  your day as a new mom, adjusting to being a mom and/or having a new person in the family, some even clean/cook!, offers advice on how to cope, and general newborn care. This is a great resource for new mamas - because adjusting to being a mom is hard!

Get a doula. It will be the best money you spend on your birth. An average doula costs between $200 - $800. If that is unaffordable, ask for money as part of your shower-gift. Doulas will often also accept a lower amount than their going rate because at the end of the day they care more about your birth experience than they do the money in their pocket.

Seriously, the peace of mind I've had with both births from having a doula was worth every penny. To know that there was someone who knew my birth plan/desires and was going to do whatever it took for me to have the birth I wanted was such a relief going into a hospital setting.

Take 7 minutes to watch this:

How to find a doula:

- ask friends for recommendations

- look on DONA International site - an organization that doulas go through to get certified

- ask your doctor {remember, if they frown upon this idea - switch doctors!}

- look for local doula organizations 

Questions to ask {questions taken from DONA}

For any doula
  • What training have you had?  - see how long she's been doing it as well. Does she have kids of her own? Why did she want to become a doula?
  • Do you have one or more backup doulas for times when you are not available? May we meet her/them?
  • What is your fee, what does it include and what are your refund policies?
  • Does she have sample birth plans? {I can send you mine if you'd like it to look over, you could discuss it with her and see where she stands on certain things....}
When interviewing a birth doula
  • Tell me about your experience as a birth doula. Try to find out what she does during the birth...what her role typically is. 
  • What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners through labor?
  • May we meet to discuss our birth plans and the role you will play in supporting me through birth?
  • May we call/text you with questions or concerns before and after the birth? - {My doulas were/are my friends - so I totally felt comfortable asking them anything - you want someone who you feel like you can ask questions of at almost any time.} 
  • When do you try to join women in labor? Do you come to our home or meet us at the place of birth?
  • Do you do any post-partum care check-ups?
  • Ask if she's had breastfeeding training...

My two cents: the most important thing is that whoever your doula is  - that it's someone who you feel like you can trust. You need to trust in her abilities to be able to serve you. The great thing is that you interview a doula before hiring her. This relationship is really important. I'm thankful that both of my doulas were friends, good friends. I never would have thought that I'd want friends at my birth, but come to find, I felt more comfortable with a friend than a stranger. If you don't have the luxury of having doula friends, then get to know your doula. See if they'd meet you for coffee to talk about birth or babies or basically anything to get to know them. Y'all, get a doula.

Stats stolen from my doula's page:
Studies have shown that the presence of a doula improves birth in the following ways:
·                50% reduction in cesarean birth
·                30% reduction in requests for pain medication
·                60% fewer requests for epidural anesthesia
·                25% decrease in the length of labor
·                Lower postpartum depression rate for mothers
·                Increased breast feeding success
·                Greater overall satisfaction from the mother about her birth
-Klaus, Kennell and Klaus, Mothering the Mother, 1993

In case you've missed this series:

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