What Is A Birth Doula? | Firestone Colorado Birth Photographer

Part of the process of obtaining my DONA birth doula certification required me to write an essay. I had to explain what a birth doula does and why they are beneficial to have in the birth space. Well I turned in my essay, and I figured I’d share it here with you, too!

Father supporting laboring wife during hospital birth at Avista hospital Colorado.

What is a birth doula?

Birth is a beautiful, messy, and miraculous journey that requires and deserves a village of support. Birth doulas are the superhero sidekicks of the birthing world. They provide unwavering support, guidance, and comfort to families during one of the most transformative experiences of their lives. Think of a birth doula as the birthing person’s personal cheerleader, masseuse, confidante, and supporter extraordinaire, all rolled into one. With a birth doula by their side, they’ll be ready to conquer any challenge that comes their way and emerge from the birth experience feeling like an absolute boss! 

With their expert knowledge, calming presence, and a bag full of tricks, birth doulas are the ultimate companion for birthing mamas. Birth doulas are like the fairy godmothers of childbirth, but instead of a wand, they bring comfort measures, information, and a whole lot of positive energy.  This is why birth doulas are more than just a trend – they’re a game-changer for anyone looking to have a positive, empowering birth experience.

Doula supporting laboring mother in a hospital bed. UC Health Anschutz hospital birth photography.

What does a birth doula do?

First and foremost, birth doulas provide emotional support to expectant parents. Pregnancy and childbirth can be an emotional rollercoaster, and having a trusted and supportive person by their side can make all the difference in the world. A doula’s role is to offer a listening ear, validate feelings, and provide a sense of comfort and reassurance throughout the entire birthing experience. Many parents have expressed how a doula’s presence made them feel safer and more confident during their birth.

Secondly, birth doulas offer physical support during labor and delivery. This can include various techniques such as massage, position changes, breathing techniques, and suggesting different coping mechanisms. A doula’s goal is to help the mother cope with the physical sensations of labor and support her in having the best birth experience possible.

Moreover, birth doulas are not just there for the mother but also for the partner or support person. They can help the partner understand what is happening during the birth process, provide guidance on how to offer support, and offer reassurance to both parents. In this way, doulas help ensure that both parents feel supported and involved in the birthing experience.

Father providing hands on support to laboring wife at Avista hospital in Colorado.

Why do I need a birth doula on my team?

The role of a birth doula is not to replace the medical staff but to complement their care. Doulas can provide physical comfort measures such as massage and positioning, offer emotional support such as encouragement and reassurance, and provide information to help the mother and her partner make informed decisions about their care. The doula does not speak for the mother, but encourages her to ask questions and make informed choices. A doula enhances the communication between the mother and the medical staff, but does not in any way replace it. 

As a birth doula, I’ve heard the phrase “I couldn’t have done it without you” so many times I’ve lost count. Many of those times, I didn’t even physically do anything; I was just THERE. But that’s the thing; sometimes just being there is all a family needs to feel safe, empowered, and supported in their birth space. To literally have someone in their corner during their most vulnerable moments. The role of a birth doula is to provide continuous emotional, physical, and educational support to the mother and her partner, ensuring they feel heard, respected, and empowered.

Doula photographer selfie in the birth room. Avista hospital Colorado birth photographer.

The facts about birth doulas

According to a study conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, having a birth doula present during labor and delivery has been linked to a wide range of positive outcomes. The study found that having a doula present during labor led to a 25% reduction in the likelihood of cesarean section, a 31% reduction in the likelihood of using synthetic oxytocin, and a 9% reduction in the likelihood of a negative birth experience. The same study also found that women who had a doula present during labor had shorter labors and were more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal delivery.

Another study published in the Journal of Perinatal Education found that the presence of a doula was associated with a reduced risk of postpartum depression. This is because the continuous emotional support provided by doulas can help reduce stress and anxiety during childbirth. The study also found that having a doula present during labor and delivery can lead to better breastfeeding outcomes.

I don’t need to read the research to know that my presence as a doula in the birth space is invaluable. I’ve seen it; I’ve felt it. I’ve witnessed the relief in a mother’s eyes when I remind her that she is strong and capable, even when she feels like giving up. I’ve felt the power of a mother’s embrace when she finally meets her baby after a long and challenging labor. I’ve seen the joy and pride in a father’s eyes when he knows he has been an active and supportive participant in the birth of his child.

Dad supporting birthing partner during a cesarean birth at Avista hospital in Colorado.

In conclusion

In conclusion, birth doulas play an essential role in the childbirth process. They provide continuous emotional and physical support to the mother and her partner, leading to better outcomes for both the mother and baby. I am proud to be a part of this profession, and I know firsthand the impact that a doula can have on a family’s birth experience. Every mama deserves to have a positive and empowering birth experience, and I know that having a birth doula present will help make that a reality.

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