There are many myths about what doula support really looks like. It isn’t uncommon for people, even new doulas, to assume support is limited to unmedicated birth or even only out of hospital birth. In reality, doulas provide a wide range of services and support.
Whether a client is planning an unmedicated, out of hospital birth with plans to breastfeed, or they’re scheduled for a medically necessary c-section with plans to bottle feed, doulas can provide immeasurable support. Many clients will fall in between those two scenarios.
Regardless of how one plans to or ends up giving birth, here are ways you an provide doulas support:
On-Call Doula Support For Continuity of Care
As a doula, you will provide on-call support for your clients. For birth doulas, this means being available within a reasonable time frame from approximately 37 to 42 weeks gestation. The knowledge that someone will be available shortly after you call is an amazing benefit of doula support.
While midwives, nurses, and obstetricians remain on-call for their clients, they are there to provide clinical care. As a doula, you can provide support before, during, and after the need for medical and clinical monitoring or care. The continuity of care is an amazing benefit for doula clients.
In addition to the obvious birth support, doulas are available to provide practical assistance. Forgotten items, needing water, remaining bedside while a partner runs to grab a snack – all basic practical assistance.
For postpartum doulas, this can look like making sure the parents eat, running an errand, or helping organize baby items.
Provide Reminders of Normalcy
Every birth is unique. However, as a doula you are well educated about normal physiological birth, interventions, etc. You have the knowledge to help reassure parents about the different things they are experiencing during labor.
Reassurance during labor, birth, and the postpartum period can be invaluable. Your doula support in helping provide reminders of normalcy can take an otherwise scary experience and help it be positive.
Support In Processing The Birth Experience
As doulas, we are not counselors, psychotherapists, or psychiatrists. We cannot provide any mental health diagnosis or treatment. However, we do have the skills to be an ear as clients process their birth experience.
We are able to provide non-judgmental support as parents process their birthing experience. We often bear witness to how their birth unfolded. While we shouldn’t color their experience, we can provide insight as the process simply by having been there.
We can reassure parents that they did amazing. We can provide an understanding ear knowing the complexities of birth.
Support For Unexpected NICU Stays, Medical Complications, Etc.
Birth often unfolds well. However, sometimes unexpected complications occur including extra medical needs and NICU stays. As a birth worker, you possess the skills, understanding, and resources to provide additional support when the unexpected occurs.
Helping clients process the unexpected and connect them with resources is an important way to provide holistic doula support. You can also provide the no strings attached check ins and reminders you’re thinking of them in a way which friends and family aren’t always able to do.
Nutrition And Food Support
As a mother myself, I often think how I wish someone would just feed me. When I’m responsible for growing a human, breastfeeding a newborn, healing, etc., it’s easy to forget to prioritize my own health and nutrition.
As doulas, we have the unique opportunity to “mother” new parents during a time of transitions. Many doulas provide meal support. Whether you’re simply reheating their meals so they remember to eat, or holding baby so parents can enjoy a meal together, making sure parents eat is an important part of doula support.
When parents welcome a younger sibling, it can be a transition for everyone. As doulas, we can provide sibling support as we provide whole family support. Sometimes sibling support looks like providing infant care so parents can spend time with their older children. Other times it may look like reading a book and playing with a sibling.
Different doulas provide different services. However, many doulas find providing sibling support to be a valuable and needed service.
A Truly Helpful Visitor
When parents welcome a new baby, everyone wants to visit. While it can be exciting to show off your new little one, it is definitely exhausting. As a doula, you visit to provide true doula support and assistance. You are one visitor parents can truly look forward to.
Yes, doulas provide ongoing support for birth. Doulas are certainly skilled and trained to help parents with unmedicated, physiological birth. However, doulas also provide additional services to help support families in unique ways.