It’s my most commonly asked question. “What does a doula do?”. For those not previously familiar, non medical support can seem like a foreign notion. Will the doula simply sit there smiling reassuringly? Will she catch your baby? Let’s examine exactly what lies within your doula’s scope of practice.
You’ve booked a prenatal care package. You’ve been in touch with your doula and you seem to mesh well. You’ve been experiencing nausea and vomiting past the first trimester, and it appears to be more severe than the morning sickness your friends have experienced. What can your doula do? Your doula will NOT diagnose you with hyperemesis gravidarum. They will NOT prescribe you medication to control nausea. Your doula WILL be able to suggest ways to stay adequately hydrated and nourished. Your doula WILL be able to reassure you about what constitutes the range of normal. Your doula may suggest questions to ask your primary care regarding your condition. Your doula may even book in a home visit to assist you with household/childcare needs while you’re feeling unwell.
You’ve seen the oft sited statistic that doula attended births have lower rates of intervention, and better outcomes. You’ve chosen to create an air tight birth plan with your doula. Perhaps it seems as though your doula will prevent any unplanned interventions from occurring. Doulas care about our client’s wishes. We’re always available to help a client make an informed decision, and we will support you in any choices you make. That being said, we’re unable (and unwilling) to speak for you. Your birth is your own, and your doula will never speak over you. We’ll encourage and support you to speak your mind and ask questions during your birth. Emergencies do happen, and the presence of a doula cannot prevent medical workers from doing their job. What we can do is be there, unwavering in our support, acting as a source of information and comfort, throughout the entire process.
You’re in labor. Transition has begun, and the experience has become quite intense. You ask your doula if she’d please break your water, and perhaps pass that gas and air mask. Doulas are support workers. We are unable to perform procedures or dispense medication, at any time, for any reason. You may see nursing staff turning to your doula for assistance. Things like assisting with linen changes, holding lamps in place, passing items. This can be confusing for clients unsure of the separation of roles between their nurse and doula. While we’re certainly happy to help the birth team if possible, we are ultimately there for your comfort. While a doula cannot provide physical comfort on a medical level, we do have countless other options. Your doula may give massage, provide counter pressure, help you get into a variety of positions, apply hot/cold packs, or simply provide a shoulder to lean on.
A doula is a skilled, trained professional who can help in countless ways. When in doubt regarding scope of practice, simply ask. We’re happy to let you know if ‘a doula does it’.