One question she has encountered, which is a great one, is “why would someone need a doula if they have support from friends and family”?
She sent me this question via text message and I responded in such. Having a baby is such an intimate (and vulnerable) time for a woman that even if she has a dozen friends that she adores, the actual number of people who will be actively helping her (in the room) would be a few. More often it is the dad (I wrote an article about dads and doulas), sometimes her mom or mother in law (or both) and maybe her best friend. It could be all of these parties, a combination of them all or only one. A doula is supportive to both the mother and who she chooses to have at her birth. A doula plays a crucial role in helping the chosen support parties become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable.
Family and friends care and love the mom in a way that the doula can’t because of the nature of the relationships. It’s special and a doula should never try to step in those roles. However, there are differences between having friend/family support and a doula’s support:
A doula is a professional in the childbirth field and is educated on the procedures, interventions, medications that the woman may encounter during birth and becomes a source of information so that the mom can make informed decisions. She is also involved on a regular basis and is more likely to be updated on how a specific hospitals’ policy is.
- The doula offers nonstop support. She is there working mainly for the mom, but also is there to get her family and friends involved in supporting her with comfort measures, position changes, words of encouragement and affirmation.
- The doula is aware of the different phases of birth and can often predict what stage the mom is in even before a doctor or nurse checks her. This is because there is a rhythm to birth and unlike the doctors and nurses the doula is there the whole time to let the mom (and father) know that she is progressing.
- Okay, I am going to say this and please do not take it the wrong way. Often family and friends unknowingly discourage the mom with their fears and preconceived ideas of how her birth should go. Also, doula will not take a mother’s responses and behavior personal allowing the mom to feel free and uninhibited during labor and birth.
- It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and often they offer suggestions to relieve them of how uncomfortable it is to see someone you love in pain. E.g. she wants an un-medicated birth. During labor she hits an emotional wall (because it's hard work) and her family, friends (and nurses) starts recommending medication. The doula knows she is trying to have an un-medicated birth and reminds her of her choices and why. Sometimes she will give in to the offer and have regrets later, wondering how far she could have gone. It’s best that if she deviates from her birth plan that she understands the pros and cons of each decision and then offered support based on her wishes not because everyone else's needs.
- The doula is recognized as a professional to nurses and doctors this allows communication between the mother and medical professionals to be enhanced.