Myths of a Doula

Doulas push mommas to have a natural birth and judge those who don’t:

A doula should never pressure a momma to do something she isn’t comfortable with or make her feel bad or guilty because of her choices. A doula does encourage the momma to try to “stick” with her original plan, but only because of previous conversations the she has had with her doula and her wishes for her birth. But when things change or minds change, the doula supports her choice 100%. A doula is there to support your ideal birth.

Doula Myths 1

A doula takes over the role of the husband or partner:

This is exactly opposite of what a doula desires! We love and strongly encourage the partner to be as involved as he wants to be. A good doula actually facilitates involvement. Having a doula as a part of the birth team, a father is free to do whatever he chooses. Doulas can encourage the father to use comfort measures and can step in if he wants a break. Having a doula allows the father to support his partner emotionally during labor and birth and to also enjoy the experience without the added pressure of trying to remember everything he learned in childbirth class! And  if the two of you are working beautifully together, I will back off and let that happen. I don’t feel unneeded in those moments. I can help with the background things. There is real value in honoring a couple’s birth space and beauty in watching a new life come into theirs.

Doulas are only useful for mommas having an unmedicated birth:

Having a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you are planning. Many women report needing fewer interventions when they have a doula, but be aware that the primary role of the doula is to help mothers have a safe and pleasant birth–not to help them choose the type of birth. For women who have decided to have a medicated birth, the doula will provide emotional support, informational support and comfort measures through labor and during the administration of medications. Doulas work alongside medicated mothers to help them deal with possible side effects and other needs, because even with medication, there is likely to be some degree of discomfort.

For a mother having a cesarean, planned or unplanned, a doula can be helpful by providing constant support and encouragement. An unplanned cesarean often results from an unexpected situation leaving mothers feeling unprepared, disappointed and scared. And even a planned cesarean that gives the family time to process and prepare can leave a momma and partner with anxiety and fear. A doula can be attentive to mothers at all times throughout the cesarean, letting them know what is going on throughout the procedure. This can free the partner to attend to the baby and accompany the newborn to the nursery while the momma is in recovery.

doula myths 2If I have a midwife, I don’t need a doula:

I had both of my babies with midwives, and for my second birth I still chose to have a doula. Having her there enriched my experience greatly. While it’s true that doulas and midwives do share some same goals and scopes of practice, their roles are very different. A doula is your listening ear from the minute you hire her. She’ll help you process your hopes and fears about the pregnancy and birth, answer questions and connect you with resources.

And unless you’re having a homebirth, even the best midwife won’t meet you in your living room and support you through early labor. Doulas often meet their clients at home, laboring with them there, and helping them with the transition to the hospital or birth center. After arriving at your birth place, a midwife can’t guarantee you’ll be her only patient in labor. Your doula is there for you, and only you.

Midwives offer birth knowledge and suggestions for coping with labor, as do doulas. However, a midwife’s final responsibility rests with the health of mom and baby. At a certain point in almost every birth (and sometimes at many points), a midwife must turn her attention from support to the medical aspects of birth. She watches for complications, advises on interventions or approaches, and serves as medical guardian.

A doula doesn’t perform any clinical or medical tasks and her focus is solely on support.

My doula will protect me against the hospital staff:

No doula can “save” a couple from a doctor, midwife or hospital who practice interventions regularly. It is up to you to advocate for yourselves, and make your wishes known to the staff.

A doula can be kicked out of a birthing room very quickly if she offends the staff or oversteps her boundaries. And we might have to work with these same people again next week or next month—to serve our clients well, it’s best not to have an opposing relationship.

That’s not to say that a doula can’t play a more subtle advocacy role. The first thing we might do is to help you figure out if the practice you’re with is a good match for your birthing goals and priorities, and if not, help identify another provider who might be a better match. A good way to lessen the chance of surprises is by talking with your provider about all your hopes and expectations beforehand.

During birth, we can remind you of your birth plan, share what we know about options, suggest questions for your to ask your healthcare provider, and help you sort through your feelings and priorities. We can give couples a gentle “heads up” if a medical intervention about to be performed without their consent. And when the pressure is on to make a medical decision, assuming it’s not an emergency, a doula can suggest some time alone to think and talk. Just removing the pressure of someone standing over you, waiting for an immediate answer, can help a couple think through their options and priorities with clear heads.

My doula will think I’m “gross” once she sees me give birth:

A doula wouldn’t be in this profession if she thought birth or the birth process was gross. She knows and understands what goes on in a body while giving birth and actually thinks it’s incredibly fascinating and a beautiful, natural part of life. Bodily functions, bodily fluids and the human body don’t gross us out. Promise.

I can’t afford a doula:

I am passionate about women supporting women during this stage of life. I believe it is the way it is meant to be. Although I do have a flat rate I charge, I would never ever want a momma or family to not have doula because they can’t afford it. Simply ask me, and we can work something out.

For information on doulas, visit the CAPPA page.