Birth support is the heart of our work as birth doulas. If you missed our post on prenatal support you can read about it here. The question that we receive most often is, "but what do you do during labor?" So as part of our series on what doulas do, we are going to walk you through and show you how a doula can support you in labor and birth. Here are three KEY things doulas do during labor.
1.) Physical support! It is one of the largest and most important parts of our work. We want to make you as comfortable as possible. Ask any mom who has had a doula about double hip squeezes and they are likely to squeeze you themselves. Massage, counter-pressure, touch, hot and cold therapy, and more can all be used as comfort measures throughout labor. Some of the most important tools doulas can give you are advice on labor positions and exercises. We can help you trouble shoot if labor stalls by encouraging walking around and changing positions to progress labor along. We also may encourage you to use the birthing ball by rocking, standing, and kneeling with it. Pelvic tilts, lunges, and other positions that encourage your pelvis to open and allow for the baby to move down are often crucial in advancing through labor.
2.) Emotional support! Emotional support can often fly under the radar as a necessity in labor and birth. But, labor and birth bring a whirlwind of emotions and each stage can be different. Having a doula to help you understand what is going on, in and of itself, can be comforting. We believe that labor is just as much of a mental workout as it is physical. We will help to keep you calm by encouraging visualization, if that is what helps you to relax. We also help you to use breathing techniques to keep calm. We offer praise, encouragement, and reassurance with a constant presence throughout your birth.
3.) Birth team support! Your birth partner is a very important component to creating the birth atmosphere and experience you desire. One of the best things we can do for you is to also support your partner. Men are often cautious of having a doula because they do not want to be replaced. We cannot replace your husband or partner. They provide unwavering support that can reach you in a way that a doula probably cannot. However, the pressure that men often feel during labor is immense. They want to be a steadfast support, but they do not know what is normal, or how to physically support you the way a trained doula can. Doulas are an arsenal of knowledge and can provide that to your husband as well as you. We can show your partner how to provide counter-pressure, where to massage, and encourage them to encourage you. Labor can be scary when you see someone you love in pain, but having someone to reassure you and your partner is invaluable.
Frederick Moms and Doulas are big proponents that all women deserve to be supported in their labor and birth choices. This means that we also appreciate the use of modern medicine and believe women that choose to have an epidural or necessitate a cesarean section deserve to be supported too. When a woman has an epidural they are unable to get out of bed, but because we are trained in labor, there are still many techniques that can be used to progress labor and provide comfort. Epidurals are not designed to make a woman feel zero pain, so pain management techniques and of course emotional support are still critical to allowing these moms to have a satisfying birth experience.
We love our csection moms too! We will touch on that in later blog, so c-section moms - stay tuned!
And guess what, after your baby has arrived, a doula's work is not complete. We provide support with breastfeeding and assist you in preparing for the transition from labor & delivery, to mother-baby. Watch for our next segment on the role of doulas in postpartum support.