Doulas are an awesome addition to your birth. They bring nonjudgmental support and incredible birth skills. There are however, many misconceptions about doulas and what they do and don’t do.
Understanding what a doula REALLY can bring to birth and the true purpose of a doula is incredibly helpful so that both the doula and the birthing family are satisfied with their care and experience.
Doula Myth #1 – I don’t trust my provider, but my doula will protect me!
Sometimes women are birthing in what they consider a hostile environment with a hostile provider. They are understandably fearful and hire a doula hoping that she can protect them from this situation and still guarantee them the birth they desire.
This is not something your doula can do. Your provider is a very powerful individual in your maternity care. When it comes down to your birth it is they who have an advanced medical degree and they who are responsible for a bad outcome. Your doula has very different, non-medical training and cannot directly influence what your provider does or protect you from them.
Your doula may be able to help you navigate your maternity care and offer advice and experience with local providers and/or birth places because they have attended births and have insider information. A doula also brings continuous labor support from a familiar person to your birth. This is incredibly valuable. She can pass this on to you, but she cannot change hospital or care provider policy.
Talk to your doula, but understand that ultimately, if your provider or birth place have policies that make your ideal birth unlikely, your doula cannot fix this. You may need to make some changes (in your birth place or provider) or accept policies you don’t love.
Doula Myth #2 – My doula will advocate for me during my birth
Often people hire a doula hoping that she will do the dirty work of standing up to a provider or nurse you don’t like. A good doula will not do this! She honors YOUR voice in many ways, and one way she honors you is stepping back so that you can speak up.
She cannot make medical decisions for you or deny care. She must find a way to support you without alienating medical personnel or taking your voice, and one way she does this is by not being an advocate for your but a support for you.
Your doula will support you in your choices. Many women find that the mere presence of a doula gives them the courage and confidence to stand up for what they desire. She is a constant reminder of your plans and your power. She can whisper in your ear, believe in you, and know that you are strong enough to say something.
Find your own voice! Use it. Your doula will support you in whatever you choose and serve as a reminder of all you have planned. A doula truly is part of your mental preparation for birth.
Doula Myth #3 – Because I hired a doula, I will get the birth I want!
Those of us who love doulas and promote them do talk about some of the statistics related to doulas and how research has found that doulas truly are beneficial and women who hire them can have fewer interventions and even fewer surgical births.
These are great stats and it is easy to think that doula is somehow a rainbow unicorn that will guarantee us the birth we want. This is sadly not true! Doulas are amazing, but they can’t determine outcome.
A doula is an important part of a great birth and she does bring some important things to the table, like relational support, a knowledge of your specific desires, and an understanding of your personal family dynamic.
These things contribute a lot to your birth, and help women feel better about the outcome- no matter what it is. Her comfort measure skills may help you avoid interventions, but they can’t guarantee you will escape them.
Recognize that some of the benefits of a doula can’t be counted, like a cesarean rate, but are measured in overall satisfaction and a feeling of power regarding your experience of birth.
Doula Myth #4 – I hired a doula so I don’t need childbirth education.
A doula’s primary role isn’t to educate you regarding birth. To do this requires many hours and cannot be crammed into the typical two prenatal visits provided by a doula. Rather than thinking of a doula as a magic bullet that helps with every single aspect of pregnancy and birth preparation, think of her as part of stacking the deck in your favor.
Hire the doula, but also educate yourself and build more community for your support by being part of a live birth class or online childbirth class.
A doula’s main focus is to support you by building a relationship so she can understand what you want for your birth and then provide that.
Childbirth education is far too broad a topic to fit in a few visits. Some doulas also provide childbirth education but they usually charge for it separately. Some even request that you attend a birth class because they know educated couples are more confident and have better experiences.
Build your village! The more people you have surrounding you, supporting you, and building you up, the better your birth will be! Seek out education and don’t just rely on your doula to do this too.
We love doulas and recommend them to all pregnant women seeking an amazing birth experience. While they may seem like a gift from the heavens as they rub your back for the thousandth time during your labor, they are not actually miracle workers.
Doulas work in concert with you, your partner, and your care providers to optimize your birth experience. No matter what happens, she supports you through the process.
This is the truth about doulas, and it couldn’t be any better.