Continuous Labor Support From Your Doula
A doula brings so much to a birth experience — from relational support to a great hip squeeze. Continuous labor support is one of the many unique things that a doula can provide and is one of the things that makes a doula such an incredible and helpful addition to modern maternity care.
Women birthing prior to the advent of widespread hospital birthing in the early part of this century often birthed with many other supportive women present.
They were likely accompanied by fellow women who were more experienced in birth than she and acted in the roles similar to that of a modern doula or midwife. A birthing woman would have been encouraged, supported, loved and expected to accomplish the task ahead of her. The women who surrounded her would have stayed with her, doing various jobs of comfort and support, throughout the process until the baby was delivered.
After the birth, these supportive women often played an important role in postpartum wellness, healing and passing on knowledge regarding baby care.
Women many years ago lacked things we can easily access like anti-hemorrhage medication, pharmaceutical pain relief, and a therapeutic birthing tub for delivery. There are advantages to birthing in this day and age.
But many birthing women today absolutely lack the continuity of care that is provided when a woman familiar with birth supports her through pregnancy and stays with her through the duration of her birthing time. Women today, through the support of a doula through their labor, can have the best of both worlds: technology when needed and emotional support throughout labor and birth.
Why is continuous labor support from your doula so important?
If you are a modern birthing woman delivering as most women do today, in a hospital, continuous support from one person is not a routine part of birth.
Your birth attendant, whether a doctor or midwife, works call with others in his or her practice. The person who attends your birth may not be your favorite provider but will be whoever is working call at the time you deliver. This is often the most nerve wracking aspect of hospital birth for the modern woman. She literally does not know who will attend her at the time of birth.
Even if your preferred provider does catch your baby, the role of a provider is not primarily as emotional support. The role of your provider is medical and they often arrive only if there are complications or at the time of delivery to catch the baby.
You will have a nurse who attends you during your labor, and they will likely spend more time with you than your provider. A nurse however, is busy and has many important duties and serves more than one patient at a time. Some confuse the role of the nurse with that of the doula, but they are very different. Your nurse must be busy charting, checking on their other patients, and attending to their, and your, medical needs.
They will not be able to provide continuous emotional support, even if they want to. Doctors, hospital midwives, and nurses also work shifts and leave when their shift is over. This is part of the sustainability of these professions.
This is where the role of the doula in providing continuous labor support is so important. Your doula is there from the time you call her to you until you give birth. This is part of her unique role and one of the things that comforts and supports a woman through labor.
It cannot be underestimated the peace derived from a familiar, nonjudgmental, and kind face throughout the intense process of labor and birth.
Why do doulas want to provide continuous labor support?
There is a reason why doctors, midwives, and nurses work shift work and limit their shifts to 24 or 12 hours. Working on call is a difficult lifestyle. It can be hard on the person living it and on their family.
Birth workers who work call, like homebirth midwives or doulas, are limited in the number of clients they can take each month because of simple lack of time. They cannot attend every birth of every woman and be called at any time of night or day if they are doing it all on their own with no end of shift in sight.
Doulas, who work call and provide continuous labor support, are dedicated to supporting their clients in birth, whether that birth last 3 hours or 30 hours.
This is an important philosophical difference between the emotional and relational support that a doula provides, and the medical support that trusted medical personnel provide.
Your doula WANTS to be that comforting face, that best friend for your birth, that shoulder to cry on, that person who knows exactly what you need and what your fears are. This is part of the reason you have paid and hired her. A great doula understands that a lot of the value of a doula lies not just in her being there no matter how long your birth, but in her relational support- her unique knowledge of you and your desires.
HOW do doulas provide continuous labor support?
It is fairly clear that working on call as a doula has advantages (providing amazing relational support throughout the duration of your labor, no matter how long or how short) and challenges (the toll and limits of working on call).
How does a professional doula make this lifestyle work for her?
First, a professional doula must charge a wage that is profitable.
This allows the doula to stay in business and avoid burnout. This also allows the doula to stay for your whole birth, even if it is long, without having to leave or worry about how she will never be able to pay for her childcare. The cost of a professional doula varies greatly depending on region and experience level but is often between 500 and 1,200 dollars for the prenatal visits, birth attendance, and postpartum visit.
Second, a great doula encourages her clients to grow her support network and gain a solid education about birth.
There is no way to guarantee that a labor will be shorter. But experienced doulas know that educated clients feel more comfortable and empowered laboring on their own before they call their doula. An educated client also has great resources learned in their childbirth class. She understands the normal phases of labor and sensations of birth and is less frightened by the process, as is her partner. An educated client also has taken advantage of things like chiropractic care which encourage a properly positioned baby which can help shorten the length of labor.
A great doula puts herself in a position where she can provide continuous, unending labor support by charging a living wage and encouraging her clients to be educated and build their own tribe of support.
Exceptions to continuous labor support
Doulas vary in their approach to continuous labor support. Most doulas have a contract and some do have stipulations that they will call in another doula after a certain number of hours. This helps the doula and the client so that if labor is long and exhausting, your doula can help provide you with the best support possible, even if that means she is relieved by a fresh doula.
Some doulas work as a team and will take turns attending your birth.
As a consumer, it is helpful to find out how your doula works in this instance or if she has any clauses limiting the number of hours she will spend with you or when she will call in additional help or charge extra. Some doulas do have 12 hour clauses in which they charge extra for a longer birth. This is not a practice we encourage at Birth Boot Camp DOULA because we feel it puts too much pressure on the laboring woman, but it is sometimes practiced by doulas. Find out what your doula does in the case of a long labor.
When it comes to the benefits of a doula, continuous labor support for the duration of your labor, no matter how long or short, is one of the greatest gifts she brings to your birth. She will be there for you.
No shift changes.
No extra charges if you have a long or hard labor.
Just continuous, nonjudgemental, constant labor support for your unique birth experience. This kind of dedication costs something, but is well worth the sacrifice.