Does everyone need a doula
by Janelle - Trust Breathe Birth
by Janelle - Trust Breathe Birth on 27 July, 2014
Today I thought I’d write about something that’s been on my mind for a while.
Every time I hear the sentence “Every birthing mother needs a doula”, I cringe a little bit.
I think what that person is trying to say is “If I was going to have a baby, I would need a doula”.
I think the first sentence should be changed to “Every birthing mother needs the opportunity to have a doula”. I think that’s much more accurate.
I’m a doula. I’ve seen situations where pregnant couples have gone from not knowing much at all about natural birth and heading down the road of a c-section, only to hire a doula, learn about their options, choose a natural birth on their educated terms and go on to have a wonderful experience birthing their baby into this world.
I’ve seen single mothers who didn’t have the support from the baby’s father, have a wonderful birthing experience with the support of a doula, rather than being alone.
I’ve seen births where the Dad needed a bit of time to collect his thoughts and step outside for a minute as his wife was in labour. This has been for many reasons… some partners can start to feel helpless and need to go out of the room to take a deep breath without having their wife see them struggling, before coming back to be their wife’s rock. Some births can be long and the partner needs a break. It’s all well and good to say that “if I have to go through labour without a break, he can do it without a break”, but sometimes partners can end up completely exhausted and only need a 10 minute refresher outside, or a 20 minute power nap, to then be fully back on board and support his partner through the rest of the birth with energy and dedication. Which is much more helpful to the mother, than someone who is completely exhausted. Or sometimes it can just be something simple, like the partner has to have a toilet break. I’ve seen those births and I’ve seen that with a doula, the labouring mothers were never unsupported, even when their partner had to step out for a minute.
There’s no question in my mind that everyone should have the opportunity to have this kind of assurance that they will be continually supported throughout their labour and birth, regardless of the circumstances.
But is there anyone who doesn’t need a doula?
In my opinion, yes.
When I was pregnant with my fourth daughter, I had done all my doula training, I was educated about birth, about my options and possible interventions and how to handle decisions during labour, I had supported other birthing mothers as a doula and I was aware of situations where a doula is a good idea. I made my decision completely informed.
I hired an independent midwife who I felt comfortable with and who had very similar views about natural birth as I did. I’d been through 3 of my own births before and I knew how my husband reacted when I was in labour and I knew he would remain my rock regardless of what happened. I knew how I reacted during labour and I knew that without exception, I turn to my husband for support. I didn’t want anyone else. I knew that I didn’t like people touching me or getting too close to me during labour. I knew that I would relax only if I felt like it was just me and my husband in the room. I know that I always need my space in any situation, but especially when I’m stressed, I need to be alone or at least have the opportunity to be alone without having to explain myself.
And (this is the part that is fascinating to me), I believe instincts are incredibly important and every instinct in my body was telling me not to have a doula.
I would look at beautiful birth photos and see a wonderful doula supporting the labouring mother with counter pressure, or encouraging the mother with her words… beautiful things… things that I myself do… things that can make a huge positive difference to a birth… and in my mind as I was looking at these photos, I would hear a very clear thought of “Oh, Hell no!!!” (*emphasise the “Hell” and shake your head slowly with attitude as you’re shaking your pointed finger “no” when saying that quote*). That’s how definite my feeling were when seeing those pictures.
I knew… KNEW… with every instinct in my body, that it was best for me not to have a doula at my birth. And I trusted my instincts. I didn’t have a doula at my birth.
And do you know what? During my birth, the only issues I had where when I was feeling like there were too many people in the room! Instincts rock 😉
If I had’ve listened to those people who say “Everyone needs a doula”, I would have been even more uncomfortable and I would have hated my birthing experience. This is exactly the opposite of what a doula should be doing.
To me, saying that “everyone needs a doula”, is the same as saying “everyone needs a waterbirth”, or “everyone needs to do HypnoBirthing” or “everyone needs a heatpack during labour”, or “everyone likes to give birth standing up”, or “everyone should have a homebirth”.
These are all great options to have available to you when birthing and ideally, everyone should have the opportunity to use any, or all of these options during labour and birth. But does everyone love all of them?
Some women prefer to give birth in water. Some don’t.
HypnoBirthing classes can help some women. Some women don’t like HypnoBirthing.
Heatpacks are a great option during labour. But some women feel too hot when they use them and prefer a cool fan.
Some labouring women like counter pressure. Some don’t like people touching them at all.
Sometimes a homebirth is the better option. Sometimes the Mum doesn’t feel comfortable with a homebirth or a hospital birth may be the better option.
And a doula is a fantastic option for many women, either during pregnancy, labour, birth or post partum. But sometimes the Mum just knows that it’s not for her.
So who should have a doula? Well, let me ask you some questions…
– Are you having continuality of care with an independent midwife?
– Do you know how interventions such as induction, epidural, lying on your back or contraction-strengthening drugs can lead to “emergency c-sections” because they can cause failure to progress or foetal distress?
– Have you birthed before and know how you and your partner will both react? Physically, emotionally and when forced to make important decisions that will impact both you and your baby?
– Does your partner know that they won’t need a break at all during the birth? Do you know that they won’t need support at some point?
– Does your partner know natural pain relief skills such as counter pressure, hip squeezes, light touch massage, relaxation, etc? Are they confident in doing them?
– Are you totally confident that if a situation comes up that requires you to make an important decision, you will be able to make that decision based on education and evidence rather than fear?
– Are you completely calm and at peace about your upcoming birth?
– Are you excited about your upcoming birth? Not just about meeting your baby, but also about the birth itself?
– Do you know if you will want non-medical pain-relief during labour? And if you’d prefer counter pressure, heat, water, affirmations or some other form?
– Are you educated about delayed cord clamping and other post-birth options and procedures?
– Do you know what policies your hospital has about your birth? Do you know their c-section rate? Do you know what their intervention rate is? Do you know what they class an an intervention?
– If you have an obstetrician, do you know what their c-section rate is? What do they class as a “natural birth”? How often do they do episiotomies? Use the vacuum or forceps? Allow the birthing mother to choose their position as they birth?
– Have you learnt about natural birth from someone who is truly educated about birth, but is independent from the system?
– Do you know why you’re choosing the type of birth you are? (natural, c-sec, vaginal)?
– If you wanting (or as some women describe, craving) a natural birth, do you know why that could be?
There are so many questions I could ask you here, but in the interest of time, I’ll stick to these ones for now.
If you answered “no”, to any of the above, I would truly suggest that you at least consider speaking to a doula and see how you feel about hiring one after your meeting with them.
I hope this has helped not only the people who have heard that “everyone needs a doula”, but also the people who feel that “nobody needs a doula”.
Doula’s are a great option… we can provide birth education, support, confidence, be a sounding board for your thoughts, answer questions, provide options… we’re not just someone who shows up at the birth 🙂
Personally, I think everyone should at least consider having a doula… even just having a doula on stand-by… sometimes just knowing that they’re there if you need them is enough! But if you truly think about it, consider all the questions above, listen to your instincts and then choose not to have a doula, that’s totally fine. Don’t let anyone tell you that you “need” one. And don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t have one. It’s a very personal choice that can only be made by you and your partner.
It’s all about you and your partner… make the decision that’s right for you.
Finding a doula (a bit of extra info if you are interested in finding out more)…
If you’re interested in finding a doula in your area, Australian Doulas is a great place to start your search! The doulas there are totally trained and all the doulas there run their own doula businesses… they’re not employed by one company, so each doula sets their own prices and has their own way of doing things, but they all still have to abide by the Australian Doulas code of conduct… so you know you’re not signing up with anyone dodgy.
Yes, I’m on that website too 🙂 If you’d like more information about me, just click on “Western Australia – South West” and then find “Janelle Ashmore“. Or feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you had a doula at your birth? Have you decided against one? I’d love to hear how your decision impacted your birth! Are you thankful you had one? Thankful you decided against one? Do you regret not having one? Do you think you’d like one at your next birth? Please feel free to comment below… I’d love to hear from you!
– Janelle xx
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Birth, Doula, Pregnancy