Wednesday, January 8, 2014

VBAC Series: What is a Doula & Why Do I Need One?

            Welcome back to the VBAC Series! I hope you are enjoying the posts so far and finding them helpful and informative. Today I want to talk about doulas. I'm willing to bet many women, especially if they have never researched natural birth at all, probably have never heard of doulas, let alone know what they do. I know I didn't until I was over halfway through my pregnancy with my daughter.
            To be completely honest, when I first learned about doulas and what they did, I didn't really see the point in hiring one. After all, wasn't that what your birthing partner was there for? I suppose I should back up and define a doula for you first before we continue.

            According to DONA (Doulas of North America) International, a doula is "a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth". In a nutshell, they are a birth advocate for you to help ensure your birth goes the way you would like/planned as much as possible. They are also there to provide reassurance and encouragement. Seems simple enough, but they are so much more than that.
            Again, you may be thinking my initial thought: Why hire someone to do something my birth partner should already be doing? Truth be told, thinking about a birth and actually being there for one in person are two totally different things. While your birth partner may be very involved beforehand, the tables may turn once he/she is actually there with you while you're in labor. Many times he/she simply can't stand to see you in pain (for good reason), so when you are in the midst of contractions and labor pains and say you want an epidural, for example, he/she is more than willing to break and go along with you, even if they promised ahead of time they would try to talk you out of it. Other people find that labor and delivery are completely different than what they had expected and a little more queasy than originally thought.
            No matter what the case, hiring a birth doula is a great idea for anyone planning a natural birth, especially at a hospital, whether she has had a prior c-section or not. Among many other things, a doula will be there to:
-help you emotionally and physically during labor (Keep in mind doulas are non-medical. They're not to be confused with midwives.)
-be on "your side" if/when medical personnel may become pushy (i.e. asking you repeatedly if you would like pain relief medication, trying to talk you into pitocin to get contractions going more, wanting to break your waters, etc.)
-help you with natural pain relief methods
-remind you (and medical personnel) of your wishes and goals for your birth

            If you would like to learn more about doulas or look into hiring one for your next birth, I suggest these sites below to get you started:

DONA International
American Pregnancy Association
Evidence Based Birth

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The information in this post should not be taken as medical advice. 

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