What Birth Doulas do to Support You- It’s A Labour of Love!
Most of the time, when I tell people I’m a doula they have no idea what I’m talking about! I’m delighted to let people know what I do and how beneficial doula support is - do you know how many cab drivers now know what a doula is because of our conversations while they’ve been driving me to or from a birth?!
Rather than give you my “go to” description of what doulas are, I'm going walk you through, Step-by-Step, the practical side of what doulas do and what support looks like when you work with me and my team of doula colleagues.
Doula Support Step-by-Step!
We support you by email, text and phone throughout your pregnancy. Any and all questions welcome - we’re like a human Rolodex of resources!
We visit our birth families one to three times (depending on the amount of support that has been requested) between approximately 30 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, and we cover A LOT of wonderful information!
Here’s a sneak peek at just some of the topics we cover during prenatal visits:
• Hands-on techniques for physical comfort during labour. We would teach these to you and your partner or other support person, to make sure you can practice when we're not there; and so that your partner or other support person feel confident to support you in early labour and beyond.
• We explore more "natural" and "medical" pain management options (i.e. breathing techniques, affirmations, imagery, the TENS machine, epidural, nitrous oxide etc.), to make sure you and your partner or other support person feels informed, and that we're all on the same page, in terms of how to support you through the process. We have specific talk sheets that we use to help us all feel like we're supporting you the best!
• We chat through the signs of labour and the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of labour. We go through A LOT of details to make sure that you know what’s normal and have a better idea of what to expect when you go into labour. In doing so, we aim to lessen any anxieties and fears (which most people have).
• We'd make sure you know how our role develops through labour and what to expect of us at every stage.
• We like to dedicate time to “pushing” as this is an area that seems to be glazed over in books and classes.
• We prefer not to make plans, but talk through birth preferences. We would discuss with you about all the various pathways that your birth may take. We aim to make sure your mind and body feel confident and calm with any direction it might go.
• We talk through all those finer details, such as when to go to the hospital or birth centre, what to pack, how you'll get there and back, and what to expect at every stage once you're there. We can also talk about what a home birth would look like if you have midwives and would like to know about that option.
• We will teach you how to advocate for yourselves when speaking to your care providers right now at your check-ups and with nurses and doctors during labour if you’re at the hospital.
• We also like to cover a wide range of postpartum topics during these visits too - feeding, what “normal” infant sleep looks like, general newborn appearance and behaviour, newborn care including diaper changes and bathing if you want. We talk about babywearing and other comfort measures for baby, healing and the early days of taking care of your postpartum body and integrating movement and activity back into your days. We also touch on expectations versus reality and how to reconcile those and find ways of finding a rhythm or general routine to help you through the early months. We can teach you how to create a “postpartum plan” so you feel supported by family and friends and how to nurture your own relationship in the postpartum time- including how to recognize signs of postpartum depression and anxiety and sibling adjustment if you have other children.
• Very importantly, we answer and talk through your specific questions! Every pregnancy, birth and baby are different, so we make sure to honour that. We create an individual group chat, between doulas and birthing family to make sure all your questions are answered whenever you need them to be.
To support these conversations, we also send you e-books covering all of these topics and more, which you can read through and reference the information at any time.
We are “on call” for you from 37 weeks until your birth. Yup, that means you can call us in the middle of the night if you think labour is progressing! We decide together when you would like us to join you for physical support.
During birth, we're there for both you AND your partner or other support person. Unlike with nurses and doctors, our primary role is supporting you, not conducting medical procedures, protocol or charting. Additionally, you will know who is showing up at your birth and have an established relationship with us! We are a constant amid the shift changes and the hustle and bustle of a hospital. We act as a sounding board, we remind you of things we've talked through prenatally, and of course, offer in-person physical, emotional and informational support. And we are there for very practical reasons too - such as relieving partners and other support people if they need a break to rest or nourish.
After the birth, we stay anywhere from one to three hours to help get you settled, help with feeding, answer questions and tidy up your belongings.
We also visit you after your birth! We try to visit you pretty soon after your arrival home, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the prospect of taking care of a tiny human all by yourselves! If you have midwives, we’ll visit on days when they’re not visiting to help give you continual support but not exhaust you. We usually spend a lot of time helping with feeding and sorting out that learning curve. We would answer all your questions, give you referrals to any services you may need and help with any immediate practical needs. We also talk about how you’re all feeling emotionally and physically (healing, fatigue, etc.) and we’ll help you process your birth.
Support looks different for every family. Doula support can be customized and focused on meeting your unique needs!
Check out our Birth Packages to see how we can support you!
This blog post was written in collaboration with Kate Sissons. Kate a member of my team and is my primary back up doula, a mother of awesome 4-year-old twins, a doula and a specialist in movement for pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Learn more about Kate here.
Ruth has enjoyed watching many bodies change, stay functional and become powerful humans. Education is at the centre of her approach, believing that knowledge is power and that informing our minds and bodies will help build an extraordinary life experience. Creative by nature and armed with an excellent knowledge of functional anatomy and physiology of pregnancy & birth, Ruth loves working with all sorts of bellies, babies and bodies!