Indianapolis Edition

When to Consider a Doula

Pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period are all very vulnerable times in a woman’s life. It may sometimes feel as though everything is a struggle; from what carrier to buy, to making it to the bathroom on time and all of the other inconveniences in between. It doesn’t help that media has at times portrayed a distressing perspective of childbirth, with women shrieking down the hall and dramatically white-knuckling their partner’s hand. A doula can ease this transition by providing extra hands-on help during this delicate time at the end of pregnancy.

Studies have shown that when doulas attend births labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are more content and newborns breastfeed more easily. The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves.” Its modern implication is used to explain a person who provides physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and after birth, as well as postpartum. A doula’s job is primarily to be there in support of the mother in all ways. In other words, a doula “mothers the mother”, so she can focus her full attention on her infant. Above all, doulas empower mothers to do what feels right in their gut, no matter what society believes they “should” be doing.

Prior to birth, if desiring assistance from a doula, it’s important to schedule a consultation about three to six months ahead to discuss needs and the desired outcome of the birthing experience.

In addition to labor support, a birth doula may offer less conventional methods of care. Some include teaching breathing techniques, meditations and movement positions to use during labor. Others include mentally prepping for the birth, such as sharing how to create vision boards and implementing positive mantras, as well as creating birth plans.

Another is planning and setting up a Blessing Way Ceremony, a pre-birthing Navajo tradition to celebrate the rite of passage into motherhood. A Blessing Way can be an alternative to the modern-day baby shower.

A doula can also set up a meal train for friends or family that wish to help by organizing home- cooked meals to freeze for the new family while they settle in to their new lives.

Emotional and informative support is provided to help release fears with unbiased and credible research to help the family make decisions regarding things like vaccines, circumcision or other birth-related interventions. Other assistance includes helping the partner get comfortable with being hands-on in their new role.

Lastly, ensuring the family has a proper babymoon, a time after birth for parents to establish a bond with their baby, is one of the most important tasks of doula work. The first week after motherhood is hard and the doula can support mom and baby to rest, bond, breastfeed, and establish a routine. This helps lower the risk of post-partum depression and can help to maintain a lasting breastfeeding relationship. The doula is also trained to set up or help with placenta encapsulation that can be nourishing to take for postpartum care.

Doulas have the role of being the birth advocate. They can be used anywhere—home, birthing center or a hospital, but an advocate is generally for those only delivering in the hospital where their choices may get ridiculed, belittled or ignored. Above all, they are intended to help the mother find her voice and utilize it during this critical time. Sometimes, voicing opinions is not always easy and during those times advocates can speak on the mother’s behalf to maintain her ethics and vision for her desired birth outcome.

Some decisions a mother will need to make before birth are: immediate breastfeeding; delayed cord clamping; using baby formula, pacifiers and bottles; epidurals or any other birthing interventions like Pitocin; using an erythromycin eye antibiotic; choosing a bath right away; choosing to give vitamin K and Hepatitis B vaccination; routine infant circumcision; and safe co-sleeping.

Some doulas offer different types of packages for choosing what type of pre-birth and post-birth support is individually needed. Also, some doulas work with budgets and some may barter or trade for services.

It’s important to understand the doula’s terms and conditions and have a contract for outlined services for confirmation of agreement before working together. For example, will a doula charge full price if they don’t make it to the birth?

If a doula sounds important to reduce stress for a birthing experience, check out your local doula networks, reach out in Facebook groups or just ask around for good recommendations. Doulas can be a supportive tool for a successful, trauma-free, natural childbirth.

Ali Schaffer is an Indianapolis-based Holistic and Natural Living Doula with Your Tribe Birthing Services. She is dedicated to empowering women through their birth and offers to work with any budget. For more information, call 765- 617-3438.

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