Doula is a Greek word translating to "a woman who serves," particularly a woman who serves in childbirth.
Technically before it was ever a profession, doulas have been around for forever! A doula is a non-medical support person who provides emotional, educational, and physical support to a mother throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. I also provide spiritual support to those who desire that. A doula is almost like the equivalent to a combo of a wedding planner and Maid of Honor is to a bride! We help get all the details and wishes planned before the big day, and we work hard to make sure your baby's BIRTHday is something you can focus on just experiencing and enjoying.
Emotional support can look like comforting you when you're feeling like you've come to the end of yourself in labor. A doula can provide verbal affirmations, praise, and encouragement to keep going. They will be there to keep you company and be a peaceful presence at your birth. Doulas are also not a replacement to your partner, but rather a powerful ally who can support them as well! They can help ease any fears or concerns for you or your partner, being a constant empathetic ear to your needs. During the postpartum visit you can process your birth story with me and if you feel that emotionally you're not in a good place, I can provide you with resources that include counselors, hotlines, support groups, or whatever you need to ensure you are holistically healing.
Educational support can look like going over the process of labor if you're unfamiliar, discussing different methods of natural comfort measures in labor, providing you with evidence-based information on various interventions and your options, helping you create your birth plan for yourself and newborn, and even discussing and practicing labor and birth positions to try. I can help prepare your birth partner to also be informed on these topics as well. I will also happily share any resources you need about certain topics, including giving you access to my ever-growing lending library.
Physical support from a doula can look like counter-pressure on your low back during contractions, hip squeezes, helping you to maneuver yourself into other birthing positions to help facilitate your baby getting into optimal position for birth and your comfort, gentle massage and touch, helping keep you nourished with food or drinks, applying warmth or cold, and more. All of these things will of course only be done after your permission is given. I will always ask for your consent and will regularly check if you still feel comforted by these measures, stopping if you decide they are not wanted anymore. I consider setting up your birth atmosphere to be part of physical support, and I'm a huge proponent for making things feel like home. I can ensure no matter where you are giving birth that the lights are dimmed or off to your preference, I can close curtains, have your birth playlist going, hang any pictures of birth affirmations around your space, etc. Doulas also have some wonderful breastfeeding knowledge and can help you with your first feeding, suggest positions to breastfeed in, and can help you get the resources you need if you require more support from a breastfeeding professional such as an IBCLC.
Spiritual support is essentially my whole belief and outlook on birth coming from God's perspective and design. As a Christian, I know prayer is powerful and that God created women for birth and to enjoy its process. God the creator, Jesus the intercessor, and Holy Spirit the comforter all have an invitation to birth. I believe intercessory prayer surrounding your pregnancy, labor, and postpartum allows The Lord to do what He does best. He comes through for you in your hour of need. If you are open to prayer and my encouragement of God's promises in scripture over you, I'm happy to provide it. You absolutely do not have to be a Christian to hire me as a doula and if you do not want me to audibly pray over you at your labor, I won't. There are some women who want and need this, and some women who do not. I respect and honor whatever you wish!
A doula is a non-medical support woman at your birth. She does not perform any clinical tasks such as cervical checks or blood pressure monitoring, etc. Instead, she spends time with you prenatally ensuring you feel prepared as possible for your birth. She attends your birth as an encouragement to you and your partner, and she can provide hands on support if wanted.
A midwife is an expert in normal physiological childbirth and concentrates extensively on women throughout their entire lifespan. They are well trained in a hands-on but low/no tech approach, using non-invasive techniques for different birth situations. Because they are well-trained in variations of normal and also recognizing what's abnormal, they are wonderful at knowing when to refer you to an obstetrician, who is very knowledgeable in high risk pregnancies, surgery, and gynecological diseases.
Research shows that women who have continuous support from doulas versus from other types of continuous support does increase the likelihood of having better birth outcomes. Let's look at the evidence for doulas!
• 39% decrease in the risk of Cesarean (www.thevbaclink.com)
• 15% increase in the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal birth (www.thevbaclink.com)
• 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin (www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
• 60% decrease in the request for an epidural (www.americanpregnancy.org)
• 10% decrease in the need for any medication for pain relief (www.thevbaclink.com)
• 41 minute average reduction in the length of labor (www.thevbaclink.com)
• 38% decrease in the low 5 minute APGAR score (www.thevbaclink.com)
• near universal breastfeeding initiation - 97.9% (www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
• 31% increase in satisfaction with the overall birth experience (www.thevbacklink.com)
No! I'm a pretty firm believer that everyone could benefit from a doula. I know with my first birth I could have really benefitted. With my second, even though it was unmedicated and very fast in the hospital, there were instances where during both my labor and postpartum I would have benefitted from having one, and my husband really could have used a little more support during my labor too.
Doulas are for the mama who knows going into it that she wants the epidural, they are for the VBAC mama, the planned cesarean mama, the unmedicated homebirth mama, the mama who wants to ensure her new baby gets no vaccines or eye ointment and does receive optimal (delayed) cord clamping, the first time mama, and the seasoned mama. Doulas support ALL of these births as long as your ultimate wishes are being supported!
While giving birth at home gives you a much higher success rate of giving birth with little to no intervention, doulas provide much more help than just helping you give birth without medication. You midwife will not usually be able to support you at your birth until you are at a certain point in your labor, and they also have not only you to care for, but your baby as well. They are not typically with you in your early labor and aren't there to provide comfort measures like massage, counter pressure, rebozo work, etc. While midwives are amazing at providing affirmations and other types of support, they are there for only a certain window of time to witness that your birth happens safely and you are your baby are healthy. Many women have doulas at their births at home.
I can support home births, hospital births, and birth center births in the Santa Maria Valley and South San Luis Obispo County areas which includes : Santa Maria, Orcutt, Lompoc, Buellton, Santa Ynez, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, The Five Cities, Nipomo, San Luis Obispo. The hospitals I can support in are French Hospital Medical Center, Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, Marian Medical Center, and Lompoc Valley Medical Center. I can potentially serve outside of those areas for an additional travel fee.
You can hire a doula as early as you like. It never hurts to book early, especially when you consider you have me in you corner from the moment you hire me. It's also a good idea to book early to ensure your birth is secured in my calendar since at this time I am only taking on 1-2 births a month.
If you feel like you generally need and want more support for yourself and partner, and you want your birth plan to be followed, it's a great idea. I know many women who have had multiple children and used a doula every time. I know women like myself who haven't used one but absolutely want one for the next baby. I know women who only used one the first time and didn't for subsequent babies. This is up to you! If you're aiming for your specific birth plan to be followed, having a doula is extremely helpful in helping advocate for these wishes - this is especially true if you're having a hospital birth. Every pregnancy and birth is different, so having a doula there for extra support especially in the unknown of labor is an amazing thing!
You want to hire someone that you can feel comfortable around. After all, you're inviting someone into your sacred birth space! Finding someone who automatically feels like a friend at the consultation is probably one of the greatest values you could find! You may find it comforting if they share your beliefs and outlook. Sometimes you may need to interview around 3 or more doulas to find the right one who clicks with you!
Typically during active labor when the progression feels more intense is when you may feel like you need my support. You will likely have called me or kept me updated by text beforehand to keep me up to speed on what's going on with your labor in the days and hours prior. Depending on if you give birth at the hospital or not, I can plan to meet you there or I can come to your home before if you are spending a lot of time laboring there (which is a great idea for your labor to progress!). Generally, I can come when you need me. After around 15-18 hours of labor support, I may plan to head home for a little rest and then return, or I can call in a backup doula to support for the several hours I'm gone just in case.
I plan to be there with you for about 18 hours at a time. If I become too exhausted to be of help to you, I would call in a backup doula to support you if you want one, and then come back to your birth. Sometimes depending on the labor, I may go home to sleep, eat, ensure my family is settled, and refresh before returning to your birth after rest. This is the case with longer labors, and I always will keep in contact with you via phone calls and texts to stay updated on how you are doing if I am away. I make sure to equip you with knowledge to advocate for yourself well while I'm away for several hours, just as I help you in person. Ideally, I will plan to stay your entire active labor if circumstances permit.
A backup doula is another doula who can attend your labor/birth if the doula you have hired is unable to make it to your birth for whatever reason, such as illness or traffic, etc. Sometimes doulas will call in a backup doula in the event that they are attending another birth at the same time and cannot get to yours right away. When they are done supporting that birth, they often can come to your birth and relieve the backup doula at yours. Depending on the labor, sometimes a backup doula will come and relieve your doula for several hours until your doula returns from resting. Typically a backup doula will either be discussed with you or sometimes even introduced to you beforehand, just in case they are needed!
Think of a doula as an invaluable investment to your birth experience. You will remember your birth for the rest of your life. Here's a little bit of a breakdown of what you're paying for, though keep in mind that every doula varies in their offerings and service fees. The biggest factor is valuable time!
• prenatal support and connection
• 24/7 on call support from 38-42 weeks
• physical, emotional, and education-based support
• travel expenses
• hours of research/labor support/visits/travel
• access to their resource library
• cost of doula’s book collection/paid resources
• cost of doula training or other certifications/trainings
• newborn care/breastfeeding support
• use of comfort tools (birth ball, rebozo, TENS machine, essential oils, etc.)
• referrals and recommendations
• prenatal/postpartum visits & education
• doula's childcare
• photos from your labor/birth
• unbiased support of your choices
• and more!