What do Doulas do? Six Pillars of Doula Support
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
The Six Pillars of Birth Doula Support.
A doula is a non-medical professional. That means they are a useful addition to a birth team, but not a replacement for a midwife or a doctor. It is said that a doula's greatest tools are their hands, head, and heart! As doulas support, they rely on these things to ensure the comfort, emotional security, and peace of a birthing person. A doula can help in many different situations; including a medicated, or non medicated childbirth. The mission of a doula can be summarized in to these six pillars:
1. Physical support:
When doula support is mentioned, most people think of the physical aspect of a doula’s job. Doulas stand for many hours, and their most powerful tool is their hands. I’ve had clients tell me after a birth, “That was the best 12 hour massage I’ve ever had!” As doulas, our job is to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible during your labor and delivery. We do this through techniques including (but not limited to): massage, basic acupressure, counter pressure, hip squeezes, and other ‘pain’ diminishing techniques.
2. Informational support:
As a Doula, it is my ethical responsibility to provide evidence-based, unbiased research. Doulas support unique individuals, with individual preferences. A doula is a neutral party, who is well versed in the birth world. Doulas are familiar with local providers, lactation specialists, and child birth educators. If you know a doula, you know an veritable army of birth workers! Personally, I take this pillar of support very seriously. I am constantly researching current, relevant information. Please visit my resource page for additional information.
3. Supporting the partner/ family:
No matter what type of family/partner situation you are in, doulas support the entire birthing team. Doulas do not replace partners or family members. Doulas have an intimate knowledge of birth, while your partner, family members, or birth team members, have an intimate knowledge of you! Doulas support families by tending to their physical needs and emotional needs. Labor can be long and exhausting for all parties involved. I often have clients ask me to make sure their partner is eating, sleeping, and making sure their needs are met as well. Once baby comes, everyone can agree that suddenly sleep can be hard to come by!
4. Emotional support:
It is common to have emotional shifts leading up to, and during labor and delivery. Typically, these shifts reflect progression and cervical change--which means baby is coming! A doula is trained to know and recognize these shifts as they happen, and they are equipped to help you process though them. Labor can be long and psychologically taxing. A doula's help is constant in the moments when everything seems to be changing. Doulas are accustomed to all sorts of emotional changes, and nothing can catch them off guard! I always tell my clients, “There is no room for anyone to ever be offended in a birth space, and you have permission to say exactly what you want to say!” A doula is the perfect support in those moments when you think, “I just can’t do it anymore.”
This is a commonly misunderstood pillar of support. I say this, because a doula should never speak directly to your care provider on your behalf. Doulas are there help you to ask the right questions, to discuss various options before the birth, and to help you formulate your own responses and preferences while still in the preparation stage. In short, my job is to help you to establish your truest vision for your birth, and to assist you in advocating for it. Teaching and discussing the importance of self-advocacy empowers birthing people.
6. Preserving the memory:
It is possibly the most important pillar of support for a doula. Different doulas provide this support in different ways. The obvious way to preserve the memory is photographing or writing up a birth story. As your doula, I am happy to do both! However, on a much deeper level, doulas help you to see and remember your birth in its true, and raw beautiful light. Once the birth story is imprinted in your mind—it is a treasured memory for the rest of time. Doulas help you to remember and fine tune beautiful moments that may have otherwise easily been looked over. During labor and delivery, it can be hard to gather all the information and process it. Doulas bridge the moments together, stitching together an unforgettable tapestry in your memory.
As your doula, I work for YOU! My primary focus is your satisfaction, in your birth. Your birth matters, and your feelings along the way matter! My main priority is making sure that you feel supported in every way possible. I believe that through proper support, an "empowering birth” becomes a reality, not just a phrase on a birth plan.
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