Each experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery should be uniquely personal. After all, no two bodies are alike.
Working one-on-one with a doula can help you prioritize your comfort and honor your care preferences to the fullest extent possible.
Doulas are non-medically trained birthing professionals who offer individualized emotional, physical, and practical support. They fill in gaps frequently left open under the traditional model of maternal health care in the U.S.
This personalized relationship allows you to understand your options throughout pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Doula care frequently contributes to better birth outcomes.
While doulas play a critical role in personalizing the birthing experience, they can be a resource throughout the entire prenatal to postpartum journey.
You can work with multiple doulas who specialize in different areas of care or a “full-spectrum” doula who has training in more than one area.
Here’s what to know about the different types of doulas and hiring a doula for support at each stage.
A doula can be a resource before pregnancy even begins. Fertility doulas provide emotional and physical support as you start your family building journey.
For example, they can help you attend to your emotional and mental well-being, helping you with boundary-setting and offering mindfulness and relaxation strategies.
They may also accompany you to doctor’s appointments and share fertility-related informational resources.
There are also doulas who are trained to offer physical and emotional support before, during, and after an abortion.
In a society that doesn’t make enough space for expectant parents to discuss their emotional and physical experience of pregnancy, a doula ensures that you are heard and advocates for your needs.
Doulas are a complement rather than a replacement for medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and midwives, offering individualized support and undivided attention beyond the scope of a medical provider.
They may refer you to medically trained health care professionals for additional support if needed.
They can also guide you and your partner through childbirth preparation. A doula may share information about labor and birth anatomy and ways to alleviate discomfort such as aromatherapy and working with pressure points. A doula will ensure that your partner is comfortable and prepared to actively participate in the process.
Some doulas focus on supporting individuals through the emotionally and physically challenging journey of pregnancy loss. These doulas may be referred to as bereavement doulas.
A bereavement doula’s role is to focus entirely on your needs as you process your loss. In addition to holding space for you emotionally, they are knowledgeable about the physical aspects of a miscarriage. They can advocate for you as needed to ensure that the experience is as comfortable as possible.
For many women, the presence of a birth doula during labor and delivery significantly transforms the experience. They are focused entirely on your needs and intentions.
Whereas doctors and nurses may be in and out of your room if you’re giving birth at a hospital, a birth doula offers continuous labor support.
Birth doulas are particularly helpful at reducing discomfort during labor. During painful contractions, they can offer strategies to return to the moment and reconnect with your breath. They may suggest different positions, offer a massage, or guide you in breathing exercises.
A birth doula can assist you at any birthing location, including your home or a hospital.
Pain management during labor is a very personal choice, and a doula can support you with any approach.
If you have decided to take pain medication during labor, a doula will be with you as medication is administered and can help you manage potential side effects. If you are interested in medication-free pain management or want to explore these options before taking medication, a doula can offer assistance with physical and non-physical interventions.
If you are having a baby as a couple, a doula’s role doesn’t replace your partner’s. Rather, they make it possible for your partner to participate in your birthing experience without pressure to play the part of labor coach.
In fact, a doula can help your partner be even more of an active participant in your labor and delivery. They may guide them in offering massage or physical touch to comfort you through contractions and keep you in the flow of labor.
The gaps in traditional maternal health care are particularly apparent during postpartum recovery.
The standard postpartum check-up doesn’t happen for at least six weeks. At this point, many women have already navigated common postpartum challenges from mood swings and the baby blues to breastfeeding problems.
A postpartum doula ensures that you have support from a healthcare professional during this time. The relationship can take many different forms.
Some postpartum doulas stay with the birthing person for a few hours a day during the first week while others remain for three months or more.
The fourth trimester — as the first 12 weeks after childbirth are classified — is an emotional and physical transition filled with hormone changes, new responsibilities, and physical healing.
A postpartum doula ensures that you have what you need to adjust to life with your newborn and heal physically from childbirth.
They are not an alternative to a nanny or nurse. They are here to provide individualized support as you transition from pregnancy into this next chapter.
Nobody knows what you need better than you. Ruth Health provides expert, evidence-based maternal advice so that you can make the best decisions for yourself.
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