One way I felt more settled in the overwhelming transition to becoming a parent was hiring a doula for the birth of my first child. Knowing that I would have some extra support quieted my concerns of the unknown and gave me a feeling of control.
My doula, Nikki Graham of Well Born Baby, was a great strength to me during my fast labor and delivery! Her presence in the room was uplifting and empowering. If you’ve ever wondered about the role of a doula and whether you should consider hiring one, let me share some benefits that might inspire you!
I recently chatted with Cali Machen, a Philadelphia area certified birth and postpartum doula as well as a childbirth educator. With a background in childcare, a yoga teacher certification and a postpartum doula certification through ProDoula, Cali brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her practice.
Hi Cali! Thank you for answering my questions. I’m going to dive right in … What does a doula do during a birth?
Most of the doula/client relationship is prenatal and focuses on prenatal education surrounding birth, common interventions and advocacy, postpartum healing, and feeding.
During the actual birth, doulas do many things ranging from comfort measures, education, assisting with fetal descend through movement and pelvic dynamics, helping the staff understand the family’s desires, assessing the first latch, and more. We also play a large role during early labor, helping many families understand how to rest, what is within the scope of normal, and how to arrive at their birthing destination at a great time.
We educate our families on many of the common complications we see during birth and how we can do our best to avoid them, and teach them our tools for coping with the unknowns of the process. If someone is medicated, doulas can be seen rocking their hips to help fetal descent with a peanut ball, and if they’re unmedicated, doulas can be seen doing hip squeezes and helping them with labor positions! Doulas also help to make the environment conducive to birth, bringing things to make the space cozy and safe. Lastly, doulas help partners during the birth process. We help them to recognize what is normal, show them what would be the most supportive way to help, and make sure they have eaten, slept, and taken care of themselves.
Why should a parent-to-be hire a doula?
There are too many reasons to list! Unfortunately, we are grossly underprepared and undereducated for birth in our culture. As a result, our birth outcomes and birth experiences are suffering across the country. This has been studied time and time again. Doulas serve as a buffer to these discrepancies in the system. It has also been shown that no matter what is happening during a birth, having continuous labor support and having someone to promote education and decision making in the moment reduces birth trauma.
Statistically, doulas have been shown to increase birth satisfaction and decrease rates of cesarean births, unnecessary interventions, and birth trauma. Everyone deserves to have a doula!
What is the most common question you get from people considering hiring a doula?
A lot of people ask me what it is that we actually do, and why having a doula is even necessary! I think a lot of people don’t realize that especially within the hospital system, there are a lot of suggestions that are based in policy and are not necessarily evidence based. Many people feel they don’t have the space to ask questions about their care. They also don’t realize that during hospital birth, the provider really only checks in once every 4 hours and catches the baby. Other than that, their nurse provides most of the bedside care, and besides that, they are alone! Without a doula, they have no guidance on
positioning, interventions that are suggested, or what to expect.
Thank you, Cali!