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

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.

The “Real” Hospital Bag

When I was pregnant, I was getting ready to pack my hospital bag and looking at all the crazy lists they had online, listening to all the advice from people (who didn’t have kids), and watching all the looks my husband was giving me (are you bringing that???). I’ve now compiled a REAL list of things you will ACTUALLY use.  Let us all know what you packed that you loved or hated for your labour experience.

For the baby

  • 2 outfits. (one for a girl and one for a boy, or if you know, 2 so that you can pick) I recommend a sleeper. If you are having a c-section, you may want to pack 3 or 4 sleepers depending on how many days you will be in the hospital with the baby.
  • Car seat (base already installed into the car and checked by a certified car seat installation specialist. You can have this done weeks before at a fire station or a hospital. Ask your hospital where you can have this checked. This is very important to do to keep your child safe)
  • A stuffed animal or blanket you got especially for this moment. You want to be the first one to give your child a present? Bring it with you!

Wow, what a short list for a baby. really? that’s it? Yes. That is it. The hospital will have everything else you need. Diapers, wash cloths, even a little hat for them to wear outside. They have babies everyday in the hospital, they are prepared. I took a few diapers into my take home bag to make sure, and I even took the pads for the heavy bleeding. (I do recommend an extra blanket if you are having a winter baby)

For you

Make sure you bring your birth plan if you have one or make decisions about what you want during the birth of your child. It won’t happen as you imagined it, but if you set out some guidelines they will help you balance the labour process and avoid any confrontation with doctors. Try to talk to your birthing coach, doula, or prenatal instructor, about this.

  • If you are being induced or having a c-section and will have to wait around:
    • cards, or something else to pass the time. this sounds dumb, but we actually used ours for 5 hours while the Oxytocin was working through my veins
    • Snacks for hubby or birthing partner – they get hungry, you are not allowed to eat
  • Comfortable PJ’s for after the baby is born. Many many lists say a night gown with buttons, but I found those super ugly and expensive, seriously I’m not going to wear it again! I opted for comfy pants and I wore the hospital gown backwards (opening side to the front instead of to the back) so that I could breast feed.
  • Something to drink. You can’t eat, but they let me drink. I had Emergen-C with me in the hospital which we just mixed with water. It has tons of vitamins and is super good for you, so if you’ve been in labour for a while this is a great pick me up. As long as the hospital lets you drink, this is your friend. Much less sugar than Gatorade and they are like $0.99 per package. However, I can never drink them again because they remind me of labour, but it worked at the time.
  • Note book/Notepad and Pen to record baby’s time, weight, height, etc. I recommend this. You will remember it forever, but if you are hopped up on Fentanol or an Epidural, you may not remember in the moment. This is also a good place to put a list of people to call with phone numbers.
  • Camera with fresh battery and an empty memory card. Nuff said.
  • Music. Find out if your hospital will have a CD player or Ipod player for you to use. We played classical music during the labour (you couldn’t hear it through my screaming), and at 6 months, it was the only music our baby would fall asleep to. Amazing, strange, and awesome all at the same time! Pick something you like, you may have to listen to it a lot.
  • Your own Pillows in your own pillow cases. The hospital will have some sort of shortage on pillows. I guarantee it.
  • Lip Balm, a hair tie, toothbrush, brush, any other toiletry you think you’ll need. It can make you feel like a real person again after going through labour.
  • An extra pair of socks or two. This is my NUMBER ONE tip for mothers to be. Many say that they didn’t think of socks. I birthed in socks, they got dirty, I wanted more socks. Your feet will probably get cold, and the blankets they give you at the hospital leave much to be desired. You cannot wear slippers to bed, so bring socks. 2-4 pairs of socks. they don’t take up much room.
  • Full-Butt underwear. No tampons after labour! Big, Giant, Monster sized pads is what you get to look forward to for 5-14 days after. Fun! They will give you some pretty sexy mesh underwear to wear after labour. That’s right ladies, I said MESH. They recently changed the post birth underwear to thin cotton. If your nurse will give you an extra pair or two to take home, do!
  • Clothes to go home in. Think Yoga/sweat pants and a loose fitting top. Of course if you are one of those women who lose all of your baby weight as soon as the baby comes out, you may want to bring your old Jeans, they might fit.

Things you DO NOT need to bring with you

  • 5 different nursing bras. Bring ONE. Do not buy many nursing bras. Day 3 after labour, your boobs will magically grow another 2 sizes or so. You will not know what size you need. WAIT until you need them!
  • 3 suitcases full of stuff. You will most likely be fine with one small suitcase or duffel bag.
  • A million snacks. YOU cannot eat anyways once labour starts. You can eat afterwards, but then you can get the good stuff from anywhere!

Dads should pack a change of clothes and swim shorts if they want to get into the tub or shower with mom. They should also have some cash for anything they want to buy at the hospital (Starbucks, Tim Hortons, etc).

If you do not have a doula, things like a tennis ball for massage or massage oils might be handy as well. If you do have a doula, ask if they will be bringing these things with them.

Good luck out there all you moms and moms to be! I wish you a relatively pain free labour!!