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What does a doula do, and are they for you?

At Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children and Madison Hospital, laboring moms are welcome to have a doula with them to provide comfort, support, information and encouragement. We spoke to three North Alabama doulas to give you a better understanding of the role of a doula during childbirth.
Tracy Abney – Rocket City Doulas
Q: What is a doula, and what is your role as a doula?

A: “We are primarily a support person. What that support looks like will vary person to person and even labor to labor. Sometimes, that looks like physical support like counter pressure or offering position changes, and sometimes that looks like emotional support – listening with a compassionate ear when clients have unexpected complications or outcomes, or when they’re nervous or anxious.

“We may provide information support and walk clients through upcoming procedures and what to expect in terms of emotions and physical sensations, or hospital procedures (as best we know them at the time.) We are supporting the family unit, so that support extends to partners when they need or want it as well.  We help partners feel comfortable to take bathroom breaks, grab food, etc., without leaving their loved ones alone during labor. We also help partners be involved (as much or as little as the family desires) by teaching hands-on comfort measure techniques.

“We are not medical professionals, so we don’t do medical tasks or offer medical advice. While we may offer suggestions to our clients of questions they can ask their provider, we would never make decisions for our clients in that capacity. The physician and nurses are there for the physical wellbeing of the baby and parent, and we are there for emotional wellbeing. We’re part of the birth team, and each of us plays an important part.”

Q: Why are doulas helpful?

A: “It’s not only statistically proven that doulas improve birth satisfaction as well as birth outcomes, but doulas fill a gap where hospital staff cannot. The L&D nurses I know locally are some of my very favorite people, and they love their patients so well. They are amazing at what they do. However, they cannot be with our clients every moment during birth. They cannot know our clients prenatally (generally) and they won’t have a relationship with our clients after birth.  Having that continuous support of someone who is professionally trained benefits our clients as well as our nurses.

“One of the things I remember after my first birth (that was a hard birth for me) was how alone I felt. I knew the nurses were doing their jobs, but I was scared and unsure and so alone. Having a doula there during the entire birth and post-recovery would have soothed my soul and calmed my anxiety. Someone to tell me that what I was going through was normal and I was doing everything I needed to do for my baby. Letting me know sensations and emotions I was experiencing were normal and natural would have helped so much.

“Birthing people benefit from having a constant presence who is there just for them, to reassure them, and to support whatever choices they have made.”

Kirsten Clark – Sacred Haven Birth Services

Q: What is a doula, and what is your role as a doula?

A: “As a doula, the most important part of my role is to support the birthing family so they feel empowered and positive about their birth experience. I help birthing people find their voice in birth, help partners feel included, and bring in techniques for comfort in pregnancy and labor.

“Birthing with a doula means birthing with loving, unbiased support. Doulas provide physical support, emotional support and informational support. We are there physically for every step of the birth, giving comfort and support in whatever way the birthing person needs. Whether you plan for a non-medicated birth, a planned Cesarean, an induction, or want an epidural, a doula can be a valuable member of your birth team! We help prepare you prenatally to know your options and plan the birth that is right for you. We offer comfort measures to help make pregnancy and labor easier and less uncomfortable. And we are there for you emotionally, since we know pregnancy and birth can be a challenging time!

Q: Why are doulas helpful?

A: “Doulas not only help provide positive experiences for birthing families, they also change health outcomes! Doula support has been extensively researched, and birthers who have a doula have been shown to benefit from:

  • 39 percent decrease in the risk of Cesarean
  • 10 percent decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
  • Shorter labors by 41 minutes, on average
  • 31 percent decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

Kaelie Harris – Breathe, Love, Birth Doula Services

Q: What is a doula, and what is your role as a doula?

A: “A doula is someone who is contracted by the family to provide emotional, physical and educational support throughout labor and delivery. My role as a doula is to help my clients figure out what they want out of their birth and how to make it happen. I provide them with resources to allow them to do their own research and make their own decisions. I support my clients through labor and delivery by teaching and implementing comfort measures, allowing the partner to rest if needed, and supporting them both emotionally.

“Some people think that doulas only support drug-free childbirth, but that isn’t true. I’ve had clients who want an epidural or want a C section. My job is to support their vision of their birth – whatever that looks like for them.

“I have personally given birth with and without a doula, and to me my doula made all the difference. I had someone supporting me the entire time and encouraging me every step of the way. She explained the different options of my birth plan and gave me the knowledge that made me confident in my body and my ability to give birth. I had someone who physically comforted me when I was in pain and reminded me of my goal when I was giving up mentally. People can have beautiful births with or without a doula, but for me it was a total game changer.

Q: Why are doulas helpful?

A: “Doulas can be helpful because we build relationships with our clients throughout their pregnancy. We help them build their birth plan and teach them techniques that can help them through labor and delivery. We learn what calms and comforts them so that we can implement that in pregnancy.”

This information highlights the services of the HH Health System as well as current health topics important to families. The information is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. Every person is different, so please contact a physician to help you make the appropriate health care decision. HH Health System has made an effort to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of publication.

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