This week's guest blog is all about Doulas and three common misconceptions. The author is Andrea Gerdes, a certified birth doula and postpartum doula who lives and works in Charlotte, NC. She is the homeschooling mother to three kids and the wife of one amazing husband.
Over the past week, I’ve been meeting with some amazing area business owners about ways we can form partnerships to benefit our clients. One of the things that surprised me is that some of them were not quite sure what I do as a doula. So I thought I would share the three common misconceptions about doulas that I keep hearing and reveal the truth about doulas. Note that I am only talking about birth doulas here, but postpartum doulas are also very misunderstood.
3 Common Doula Misconceptions
1. A lot of people seem to think that doulas deliver babies.
First of all, can we talk about that word “deliver”? I admit I sometimes still use it but I don’t like it. Pizzas are delivered, not babies. Women give birth and someone catches the baby.
Okay, so moving on, here’s the way I would explain it if we were having coffee together. A doula is a non-medical support person. We don’t do cervical exams, we don’t do blood pressure checks, we don’t listen to the baby’s heartbeat. And we don’t catch babies. Usually the doctor or midwife who is your care provider catches the baby. Sometimes you or your partner catch the baby. The doula doesn’t catch the baby.
So what do doulas do at the birth? So many things! Hold your hand, rub your back, tell you how amazing you are, help you make decisions during the birthing process, help you use the bathroom, get you water, breathe with you, help you out of the tub, offer essential oils to sniff, suggest position changes…..are you getting the picture? There is so much more to labor support than catching the baby. I do all this and more during my client’s births, but I don’t catch babies.
2. Many people assume that doulas only attend homebirths.
This one is really far from reality. While there may be some doulas who only attend homebirths, most of us attend births at all types of birthing locations. I attend births in hospitals,in birth centers, and at home. Most babies in the US are born in the hospital and most of the births I attend are also in hospitals. Basically, wherever my clients give birth, that’s where I go.
Some people have asked me what doulas do in hospital births. I mean the doctor is there right? (Obviously those people have never given birth in a US hospital), Yes, your doctor or midwife is around while you are laboring in the hospital but they don’t stay with you the whole time (they usually pop in and out every few hours and then show up right when your baby is getting ready to be born). Currently, the labor and delivery nurse is the main person handling your care in the hospital. But even your nurse is not in the room with you all the time, and a lot of the time that she is there, she is charting. Also, this is the first time you have ever met your nurse and it might be the first time you have ever met the doctor or midwife on call at the time you are in labor. So your doula may be the only person present at your birth (other than your partner, or friends and family members)that you have ever met before. If you want to know what your doula will be doing at the hospital with you all that time, see the list I provided above. You remember: rubbing your back, telling you you’re awesome, need I say more?
3. Doulas are only helpful for natural births.
I won’t go into what is considered a natural birth here, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that it means giving birth without pain relief, or more specifically, an epidural. Admittedly, a lot of my clients do hire me because they are hoping for an unmedicated birth. Hiring a doula is a great idea if you don’t want to use pain meds because we know a lot of techniques that can help make labor more bearable. We also may be able to help you have a faster labor, which is nice, right? However, not everyone is able to or wants to do the whole labor thing without an epidural. Some of my clients go into labor knowing they want an epidural and some others decide they want one in the thick of things. And that is just fine with me. There are so many things I can do to support you if you have an epidural so please don’t think that you can’t hire a doula or don’t need one if you are considering pain relief or any other intervention for your birth.
Now that you know a few of the common misconceptions about doulas and the truth about how we serve our clients, I hope you will consider hiring one for your birth. Who can’t use a trained, knowledgeable, professional support person at your side on one of the most important days of your life? And I didn’t even delve into all of the studies that show doulas can make a real difference in birth outcomes. (you can see them here: www.evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/) If you are in the Charlotte area and want to meet up to learn more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also see a bunch of other wonderful doulas on this www.yourcharlottedoulas.com