5 Reasons Your Midwife Wants You to Hire a Doula
Not only does evidence tell us a doula can have measurable benefits for both mothers and their babies, but their intangible benefits are also felt every day by those who hire them for their expert support.
Doulas are fast becoming standard-of-care, as they should. Women have always surrounded women in their childbearing year, from girlhood on up. We know that new mothers in America are too isolated. Society leaves us alone to manage a never-ending list of “shoulds” between hectic schedules, separation of families, and age segregation.
People often ask me if home birthing families really need a doula. My answer is nuanced. I don’t believe every family “needs” a doula. Some families have support and help. Their own extended family, their religious community, or a close-knit community of friends may provide the needed community. Those families may not “need” a doula.
However, I do believe that every family would benefit from a doula. This is because a good doula will always add to the experience what is needed, and guard the space from that which is not. Even in a home birth setting.
Additionally, if a family lacks anything in the way of support, then a doula is absolutely a necessity! She is worth every penny you pay her, and more. A doula’s positive influence cannot be overstated. I am overjoyed when I hear that a mother has chosen to add a doula to her support network.
Here are 5 good reasons to hire a doula if you are planning a midwife-attended home birth:
1: You are a first-time parent or a VBAC client.
A first-time mom’s labor is likely to take longer than a woman has labored before. If you have had a cesarean, there may be some additional emotional blockages related to your prior experience that you need to overcome in labor. There is nothing wrong with either of those things. We don’t worry a bit about longish labors. As long as you and your baby are laboring well together, we are content to wait.
However, we often will not come to stay until active labor is well-established. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is because we need to be as well-rested as possible in order to maintain you and your baby’s health and safety during the labor and birth process. Our choice will often be to sleep while we can. This allows us to maintain our ability to make critical decisions that require a clear head.
The other reason we don’t want to arrive too early in labor is that your uterus may not want us there! Your body knows when your care provider is watching, and it may get very shy–slowing or even stopping the process until the nosy midwife is out of sight and mind. I have seen it several times, both in my years as a doula and as a midwife.
This is where doulas save the day! They are much more able to come in early labor and stay. They will help you relax, rest, eat, drink, stay distracted and let your labor unfold in its own good time. Doulas are experts in peer support, and as such, their presence rarely interferes with the natural labor process, and we often see much more efficient early labors in mothers who have doulas.
2: Doulas are kind of a birth fairy.
They come into the birth space, read the room, and are able to fit themselves in wherever they are needed. Perhaps your partner feels bit overwhelmed trying to get the pool set up while supporting you, so your doula takes over pool duty so your partner can focus on you. One of the kids wakes up, so your doula is able to stay with you while your partner comforts a child and puts them back to sleep (or vice versa). You and your partner are rocking your labor just fine, and your doula snaps a few intimate photos. Sometimes, she walks the dog, feeds a child, updates the family phone chain, and updates the midwife. Whatever the need is, your doula will have a magical ability to fill it intuitively.
3: Doulas can read your labor like a book.
Sometimes parents have a hard time deciding when to call the midwife to come in labor. Especially if they are first-time parents, have had a previous hospital birth (or cesarean), or were induced in a previous labor. No matter how much we discuss those “when to call” moments prenatally, some parents will doubt their ability to assess what warrants a phone call or will be so absorbed in labor, they no longer think about it. You can assign your doula the task of updating the midwife as needed, so you don’t have to break your concentration to do it. Plus, doulas know the clinical lingo and can communicate in concrete terms that your midwife will easily understand and acknowledge.
4: Comfort. Comfort. Comfort.
As a midwife, I do care about your comfort in labor, because I understand its correlation with health, well-being, and safety on multiple levels. However, I think more about how long it’s been since I listened to heart tones, rather than whether or not you need your hips squeezed. Not to mention charting. (Oh! the paperwork! *dramatic faint*) Midwives offer as much comfort as we can in the context of our primary responsibilities, but doulas are all about comfort. All the comfort. All the time. Comfort for the sake of comfort, in a very uncomfortable process! Comfort is a doula’s primary responsibility. You really can’t beat that.
5: Community Support.
As another midwife so aptly pointed out, your choices in midwives may be much more limited than your choices in doulas. Whether you are a woman of color, from a faith community, LGBT, or some other minority group, finding a doula who aligns more closely with your values and needs can help round out your care and make your experience much better than it otherwise would have been.
Pretty much any experienced midwife is going to have the skill set and competence you need in order to stay low-risk, healthy, empowered, and safe. Your community doula can help you create a beautiful, meaningful experience around your childbearing year through comfort, education, and learning to speak your needs effectively to your midwife (who will be learning right alongside you). The more trust that can be built among the members of your chosen support network, the better off you and your baby will be, and community doulas are key to this for many families.
You won’t regret it.
Did you hire a doula for your home birth? Why or why not? What was your experience?