In 2016 I had the opportunity to travel to many places to represent Milkies and I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people. An event in Seattle during September put me in the same room as a wonderful group named Emerald City Doulas. Doulas are the unsung heroes of the delivery room, having a doula at your side during the labor process leads to lower rates of caesarian sections, reduced pain medicine use and higher satisfaction with the birth experience.
The more I learned about doulas, the more questions I had. So I reached out the best doulas in the business, Christi Nixon and Paula Gustafson of Emerald City Doulas for an interview. I was fortunate Christi could take a few minutes away from her busy schedule to answer some questions.
The first thing I wanted to know was how Christi describes a doula, she said, “A doula provides non-judgmental support to a mother and her family. A doula provides guidance and encouragement in the delivery room and prepares a family to care for their new baby at home. For example, a doula may teach a family how to bathe their baby and may identify breastfeeding problems and refer to a lactation consultant. There are several types of doulas; the most common are post-partum doulas and labor doulas. They play very important, but very different roles for families.”
The term “doula” was coined in 1976, but women have been supporting each other in the birth process for much of recorded history. Prior to the early 20th century, women labored at home, attended by an experienced female friend or relative. After the birth, this woman would stay with the new mother during a period called “lying in”, helping her recover, initiate breastfeeding and adjust to new motherhood.
As our culture changed in the 1920s and 1930s, more women moved to hospital births and the female support person was replaced by a single, (almost always) male doctor. For high risk mothers, this was a benefit. But for most births, medical interventions are not needed and can be counterproductive to the progression of labor and the health of mother and baby.
Fast forward to the present and, in many hospitals, the birth experience can be similar to 100 years ago. Inductions, C-sections and other interventions can be lifesaving but can alter a woman’s birth experience and introduce complications that require even more interventions. Doulas have emerged as the mother’s guide to a better birth, transition to motherhood and more successful breastfeeding.
I learned from Christi the wide range of tasks a post-partum doula can take on. A post-partum doula can help families adjust to the new routine of wake and sleep, teach swaddling and soothing techniques. They can also do light housework, simple meal preparation and nursery organization.
Doulas like Christi usually has a first meeting with mothers-to-be anytime during their pregnancies – she has helped moms that recently found out they were pregnant and moms that have almost reached their due dates. Her services packages are pretty typical and include 2 prenatal visits, labor and a post-partum visit.
Christi has some great advice for choosing the right doula:
1. Meet with a few until you find a doula you feel a comfortable connection with.
2. Ask about certifications. Christi is certified through ProDoula and holds additional certifications, ProDoula CD Labor/Postpartum, ProDoula PPS, PDCBE, and CD (PALS)
3. Sign a contract outlining your expectation for the doula and her compensation. The doula should provide the contract. Be sure to ask about her compensation if your labor goes on longer than 14 hours.
A doula is a crucial part of your support team before during and after labor. She works with your medical team and family to help you move through your pregnancy, labor and into new motherhood and breastfeeding. Find out more about the doula services in your area and how a labor and post-partum doula can help you and your family, reduce stress and increase the happy memories of your birth process.
Thanks to Christi and Paula at Emerald City Doulas for being a source for this article.
Find them at http://www.emeraldcitydoulas.com/