A Birth Doula is a knowledgeable and skilled caregiver of childbearing families, who provides physical comfort, emotional support, and information before, during, and just after childbirth. A birth doula does not have to be a mother or a medical professional, rather a warm, caring, and accepting person who takes pride in being a professional. As the latest professional to join the maternity care team, doulas play a unique role in assisting families to have both a safe and memorable birth.
Birth doulas practice in hospital, birth center, and home birth settings; with all types of maternity care providers. The birth doula brings back a kind of care that’s been missing in modern childbirth and is complementary to clinical care.
Before the Birth
A doula meets with the family to discuss their needs and concerns, priorities, coping strategies, plans for the birth, and how they will work together as a team.
During the Birth
The doula utilizes strategies that promote the normal process of birth, reduce stress and pain, and speed labor progress. Doulas provide continuous emotional support under all circumstances, and guidance for partners and family members, enhancing their participation.
After the Birth
Doulas offer education and support, breastfeeding help, debriefing of the birth, and ongoing follow-up to promote a healthy postpartum recovery and positive family adjustment.
Doulas Make a Difference!
A doula’s primary focus is on meeting the physical and emotional needs of the birthing woman and her family. She is able to solely dedicate herself this way because she works with one client at a time, stays with the family throughout the entire birth, and is not involved in clinical care tasks. She adds continuous presence, calmness, objectivity, knowledge and skills to the loving service of others that the woman chooses to support her. If problems occur or a need for medical intervention arises, the doula facilitates communication with the family and clinical care providers, maintains emotional connection and human touch, and advocates for the families’ wishes.
Studies have Verified that the Presence of a Birth Doula:
☼ Reduces stress and shortens labor
☼ Increases mother’s feelings of control
☼ Enhances the partner’s participation
☼ Decreases interventions and cesareans
☼ Builds the mother’s self-esteem
☼ Improves outcomes for newborns
☼ Facilitates parent-infant bonding
☼ Decreases postpartum depression
☼ Increases positive feelings about the birth experience
As a Birth Doula, our role encompasses a package of services that involve both pre and post-natal visits with our clients to conduct interviews, assess the family’s adjustment or need for community resources, and to also attend the entire birth and stay for the immediate postpartum period. Phone calls as needed are a part of our service. For each family, the time spent would be approximately 25 hours.
The average doula takes 1-2 clients a month, but this is entirely up to the individual, with some taking up to 5 or 6 working in a teamwork situation, and others taking much less. In addition, we spend time towards developing our personal businesses-marketing our services, networking, keeping accounts of income and expenses, purchasing supplies, and maintaining continuing education requirements.
Above all, it is an honor to be invited into one of the most miraculous events of a lifetime, the arrival of a new human being on the planet and the creation or expansion of a family. Deep feelings of satisfaction accompany each experience of providing labor support, as you tangibly know that your presence made a difference on many levels, no matter what the outcome of the birth. Witnessing the raw power and strength of women, the melting of a father’s heart as he holds his newborn, and the incredible intelligence and consciousness of a brand new baby is fulfilling indeed. Being able to be of service at a critical time of human development confirms that what you do will ripple into the lives of the families you support far into their futures and into society.
There are many other advantages of this career. Networking collaboratively with other Doulas, who are just amazing women, is another source of satisfaction. Many Birth Doulas provide additional services to childbearing families such as childbirth education, postpartum doula services, massage therapy, or birth counseling to supplement their incomes. If you quest for new knowledge and skills, this field is a constant source of discovery. Logistical aspects, such as being able to determine your own schedule, how much work you will take on, whether part or full-time is a bonus. For those of us in the field, the many joys we experience far outweigh the challenges of this work.
Most Birth Doulas will say that being on call is the biggest challenge, as we must be ready to join our families as soon as they contact us. We are usually on call 2 weeks prior to a client’s guess date and until she gives birth. Being at a birth for unpredictable hours goes along with that, which also means having physical endurance and strength for those long births. So being able to arrange your life to accommodate this is a must, especially with childcare. You must have other financial resources while you build your practice, which takes patience and effort.
Perhaps the aspect of being able to whole-heartedly support women’s choices regarding their birth experience is trying at times, which is at the core of true support. To be able to be accepting and non-judgmental towards people of differing backgrounds or values tests us often.
Another challenging aspect is working within a maternity care system that is highly medicalized, fearful, and often limited in knowledge about the normal and physiological aspects of childbirth, which the birth doula is trained in. However, the presence of Doulas has helped to bridge this gap both with parents and other professionals. Over and over, research has proven the benefit to families of psychosocial support, the primary reason for our role, which has been missing or limited for generations.
Can I Make a Living as a Doula?
Yes, It is truly possible to combine a sustainable career with being a professional, practicing social justice, AND following our passion. Everyone has different goals for being a birth doula and if it is your desire to build a practice to the point of fully supporting yourself that is entirely feasible by dedicating time and hard work to do so. The Birth Doula Workshop will equip you with tools and a marketing plan to get your practice off to a good start. I firmly believe that doulas should be valued for the work we do by being fairly compensated, whether through private pay clients, community organizations, or the health care system. As a Board member of the Oregon Doula Association, we are dedicated to making this a reality, as only through sustainability will we retain the treasured experience of committed doulas.
In your Birth Doula Workshop, we will be addressing all of these issues in more detail!