Doula Myths Solved!

My friend at Buddah Belly Doulas in Vancouver wrote this, and I love it. To see what they offer in the Vancouver area, visit http://buddhabellydoulas.com/

When I first heard the word “doula”, I had no idea what it meant. When I heard that a doula is someone who supports a woman through her labour and postpartum period (or fourth trimester), I didn’t realize such a service even existed. I was also surprised to hear some of the benefits to having a doula were shorter labours and lower chances of having postpartum depression.

I have to admit, when I thought of a doula assisting me in my labour, I pictured a woman with hairy armpits who was yelling at me for having my baby in a hospital with drugs. I never thought that three years after first hearing the word doula, I would become one. That’s why I want to debunk some of the most common myths about doulas today:

1. Myth: A doula won’t allow a laboring woman to take any pain relief drugs.
Truth: A doula is there to help support a laboring woman and help ensure a safe and satisfying childbirth as the couple defines it. A doula will not make medical decisions for the laboring couple. A doula will not judge a couple’s decision to have pain relief. Instead, a doula will help the couple explore and understand both the benefits and drawbacks of using pain relieving drugs.

2. Myth: If you’ve met one doula, you’ve met them all.
Truth: While every certified doula abides by the certifying body’s ‘scope of practice’, each doula is unique. Interview several doulas to find someone whose philosophy, personality and areas of specialty most closely meet your needs.

3. Myth: A doula will interfere with medical advice.
Truth: A doula will not interfere with medical advice. She facilitates communication between all involved and encourages the couple to ask relevant questions so they can make informed choices. Doulas do not make decisions for their clients and doulas DO NOT offer medical advice.

4. Myth: A doula will “take over” the role of the partner.
Truth: A doula is there to enhance the relationships between the hospital staff, the laboring couple and others present. Often times the partner will become more involved with a doula present. As Penny Simkin, P.T. states “While the doula probably knows more than the partner about birth, hospitals and maternity care, the partner knows more about the woman’s personality, likes and dislikes, and needs. Moreover, he or she loves the woman more than anyone else there.” A good doula will reinforce the fact that this is your birth, not hers. She will strengthen the pair bond by instilling confidence in the partner and facilitating open communication between the couple and others present.

5. Myth: A doula will take away “the best part of a nurse’s job.”
Truth: A laboring woman can never have too much support. Nurses and doulas realize this. While a doula is not a nurse, she is still a birth professional who is skilled in the art of labor support. A doula strives to work as a team with the nursing staff and welcomes any suggestions and physical support that the nurse may provide. Nurses are often responsible for several laboring women at the same time and their shifts may end before you deliver. The doula is there just for you. Her obligation, unlike a nurse, is completely and sovereignly to you.

6. Myth: A doula has a negative opinion about a hospital setting.
Truth: A doula has the utmost respect for the lifesaving technology available for unexpected circumstances in a hospital. While doulas have a strong belief in a woman’s ability to birth her baby and always strive to ensure that the birthing process remains normal, doulas appreciate the judicious use of life saving technology when the situation becomes abnormal.

7. Myth: Doulas are not necessary because the nurse (partner, family member, friend, fill in the blank) is there.
Truth: A doula does not perform clinical skills, is not encumbered by hospital procedures, and is not overwhelmed by caring for several women at the same time. She is the only member of the maternity care team who is focused completely on the mother’s well being and will remain with the woman constantly from the beginning of labor to the end. A doula is not emotionally involved with the laboring woman, as are other family members and close friends. The doula knows what to expect and remains calm and objective when she sees the laboring woman in pain. Often, a doula has seen significantly more unmedicated births than the hospital staff.

8. Myth: A doula will leave if the mother gets an epidural.
Truth: There seems to be an urban legend of sorts about the doula who left as soon as the mom got an epidural. This is not usual. A doula is there to support the laboring woman with any decisions she makes. She still needs continuous support even with an epidural. The doula can give dad/partner a break to go get something to eat or to take a nap if it’s been a particularly long labor. She can take pictures, get ice-chips, do hand massage or just sit quietly while the woman rests.

9. Myth: Doulas secretly want to catch the baby.
Truth: A doula does not have the clinical skills or the knowledge to want to receive the baby on her own. Trying to deliver the baby on her own would be a dangerous decision that would not ensure the safe passage of mother and baby through the birth process.

10. Myth: Doulas only attend home births.
Truth: Doulas attend births at home, at the hospital and at birth centers. She will remain at home with the laboring woman until it is time to go to the hospital/birth center (where applicable). The fact is that the vast majority of women living in the United States birth in a hospital setting and therefore most of the births a doula attends are in the hospital.

12. Myth: All doulas are “patchouli-wearing, tree-hugging, earthy vegetarians”
Truth: The majority of doulas are professional, well-educated women. The key is to find a doula who suits your individual needs and personality.

13. Myth: A doula has her own ‘birth plan’ and strives to make the couple follow it.
Truth: A good doula will help you formulate your own birth plan and then bend over backwards to follow it.

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