If you don’t already know the answer to the question, “why a doula?”, we will try to help you understands the benefits of using a doula (or “servant” in Greek) in this Pregnancy Guide.
As yoga teachers, we don’t usually give advice about what to do… just guidance about aligning with your inner truth. But talking to three doulas is one of three pieces of advice we often give (in addition to take a childbirth and infant care class, and do prenatal yoga). A doula does not do any medical interventions – she is just there to support you and your partner emotionally and physically through the process of becoming parents to this baby.
A doula is there to support your goals for your birth and help you achieve them, whether you are wanting a birth totally free of interventions, a Cesarean, or anything in between. This is your body, your baby, and your birth and no one else can decide what is best for you. Should you choose to give birth without interventions, an experienced support person is even more critical for both you and your partner to help you achieve this wonderful goal. Doulas bring compassion, love, and confidence to new families by giving them the tools they need to begin their journey into parenthood.
When choosing your doula make sure you feel a good connection with her. It’s more important that you have a good feeling about her than her level of experience, certifying organization, or how popular she is in your community. Remember that birth is an intimate experience and it may be very long. How will you feel about spending a day or two in a room with your partner and your doula together? How will you feel about her touching you? And, how well will she and your partner work together? Trust your intuition!
Here are some helpful tips for early labor, often before your doula arrives:
1. Rest! It’s hard to avoid the excitement of meeting your new baby, but please remember that labor can take a long time. It’s exhaustion, not pain, that often causes a woman to change her mind and opt for pain relief. If this is your first baby, you will likely think that you are further into your labor than you are. Resist the urge to “work” through your contractions and try to ignore your labor as long as you can. When you can no longer ignore it, you’re probably still somewhat early in the process and you will have saved vital strength and energy.
2. Eat and Drink! Dehydration causes fatigued muscles that have to work harder. Cramping sensations and uterine irritability are more intense with dehydration so your level of comfort is dependent on your fluid intake. A sign of dehydration is long, painful contractions with little progress. Eating will provide you with the fuel you need for this amazing journey.
3. Breathe and let go! Like hydration, oxygenation is critically important for your muscles to work efficiently. Take long slow breaths and let your body go limp like a wet noodle during each contraction or wave. Releasing tension helps the baby descend and the cervix open.
One of my primary goals is to reduce stress and fear because these emotions can inhibit labor progress, increase discomfort, and can reduce overall feelings of satisfaction about the birth experience. Another primary goal is to provide comfort measures and tools for progress. Doulas are trained in many different ways to help mothers cope with the sensations of labor. We find that each woman is unique in what will help her, so it’s important to have many options available to try. We learn various techniques to help with progress when the baby is not descending due to its position.
Remember that partners are also going through their own strong emotions of becoming parents while at the same time witnessing the person they love going through something quite intense. So not only does a doula support the mother, but she also supports the partner.
Many partners are concerned that a doula will take their place as the primary support person. This could not be further from the truth as no doula could ever provide the love and commitment of a woman’s partner. Once partners realize that having a doula allows them to support the woman they love with the confidence of not being alone and solely responsible for everything at the birth, they are all for it.
Margie Levy has been a certified doula since 2002 and has served over 275 families. It was the birth of her own two children in 1991 and 1993 that made her realize how critical support is for birthing families, and she loves supporting these families as they grow. She can be found at www.SupportiveDoula.com.
For recommendations from the Ma Yoga community for doulas in the Los Angeles area, go up to Guides, click For Pregnancy, and scroll down to Recommended Caregivers.