the blog of a Philadelphia birth doula.
You're pregnant - congratulations! Among the many decisions you will be making in the coming months, one of the most important is where and with whom you will choose to birth. As they begin to explore their options about birthing, more and more parents-to-be are discovering how valuable a doula can be as an addition to the birth team. Here are some of my favorite reasons for choosing to hire one.
1. Knowledge and Experience
A doula is a veritable fount of knowledge for you to take advantage of! Many expectant parents know almost nothing about pregnancy and birth, but even a brand new doula who hasn't attended a single birth has likely spent hundreds of hours on education. She will also have recommendations on resources for you to use to further your own knowledge, whether that consists of recommended books to read, or a list of the best birth childbirth classes in your area, and may also have "insider information" about the hospitals and care providers you are considering.
The sheer volume of information available to expectant parents can be completely overwhelming - your doula can help you sort through it all. (This can be especially valuable for first time parents, for whom pregnancy and birth are a virtual unknown.) Whatever your pregnancy or birth throws at you, chances are good you doula has "been there, done that", and she probably has suggestions or techniques to help you cope. It can be reassuring, when things are intense or you're feeling unsure, to see a big smile on your doula's face, accompanied by the gentle reminder that "Everything is great - this is totally normal!"
2. Support for your partner
The birthing person has a job to do - but what about your partner? Many wonder how having a doula impacts the role your partner plays in your birth experience - does the doula replace them? Will they feel less involved in the proces? The answer is a resounding "NO!" on both counts!
Your doula will spend time getting to know you both in the weeks leading up to your birth. She'll tap into your "vibe" as a couple, and help you figure out how your partner sees their role in the birth process, and offer support for that when you are birthing. A doula takes the pressure off your partner, so they can be fully present and involved in whatever way they (and you) feel most comfortable.
3. Familiarity, and continuity of care
A doula is the one person you can count on being at your birth, other than your partner, who really knows you, and what your hopes are for your birth.
Due to shift changes and on-call schedules, there is a good chance that, over the course of your birth, you may see multiple care providers. There is a good possibility that the doctor or midwife you are used to seeing may not be the person who is there when you are in your birthing time. (It may even be someone you have never met before!) Unlike your doctor/midwife (who has multiple patients to care for, and who you may only see briefly before you are ready to push), your doula's only responsibility is you. She will be with you from the time you call requesting her presence, until after your baby is born and you are comfortable, ready for private time with your baby and your partner.
One of the first questions I ask prospective clients is, "Tell me what your best birth looks like." 90% of the time, the response is a blank, deer-in-the-headlights look, followed by a stammering, "Uhhh, I'm not sure." A doula will help you figure out what feels most important TO YOU. She will assist you in creating a plan that supports your vision for your birth, making sure you understand your options and alternatives, and possible outcomes for the decisions you make about your care.
5. An alternative to Google!
Most doulas have an open communication policy, and are happy to answer questions about just about anything relating to pregnancy and birth. Before you Google that question or symptom, reach out to your doula! Chances are good she will have information or resources on whatever the topic is, and will save you the trouble (and anxiety!) of consulting "Dr. Google."
6. Unbiased support and advocacy
This is the big kahuna of working with a doula. Your doula works for YOU - not your doctor or midwife, and not your hospital or birth center. She has no agenda, other than to help you have a satisfying birth experience, whatever that might mean to you. She will be familiar with your wishes for your birth (remember that birth plan you made?), and will help you advocate for yourself in the moment. She'll offer reminders if things deviate from your plan, and help you adjust course if a change of plans is desired or necessary. And while a doula can't speak for you, she will help you find your voice, facilitating communication with your care provider, and making sure you have the information you need to feel confident in the choices you make about your care.
7. The stats support it*
The evidence speaks for itself! In 2017, an updated Cochrane review was published on the use of continuous support during childbirth. The data (gathered from 26 trials, including more than 15,000 people) shows that those who received continuous support had shorter labors and were more likely to have vaginal births. They were also less likely to feel a need for pain medication or epidural, and less likely to require assisted deliveries (vacuum or forceps use) or Cesareans. When combined with increased overall satisfaction with their birth experience and reduced risk of postpartum depression, those findings are significant!
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Hi, I'm Heather
Doula and childbirth educator serving Philadelphia, Delaware County and the Main Line.
Professional birth and postpartum doula, breastfeeding support and childbirth classes in Philadelphia, Delaware County (Delco) and the Main Line, including: Bala Cynwyd, Bryn Mawr, Center City, Fishtown, East Falls, Germantown, Havertown, Lansdowne, Media, Mt. Airy, Northern Liberties, Ridley Park, South Philly, Springfield, Swarthmore and the surrounding areas.