Doulas provide amazing support during birth, but you can also use them in other ways pre- and post-pregnancy. Here, a doula shares five unexpected ways they can help.
Doulas are typically hired as childbirth coaches for parents seeking emotional and physical support throughout pregnancy and birth, but we have a wealth of knowledge in all areas surrounding pregnancy, labor, birth and even postpartum recovery. Even if you don't opt to have a birth doula in the delivery room when your sweet babe makes her arrival, there are many other great reasons to add one to your support team.
Maternal Mental Health
Unfortunately, baby blues or worse, postpartum depression, is something that is very real for a lot of mothers, whether it's their first time or not. It's also one of those scary topics that mom's often shy away from. It's easy for them to bottle their feelings, thinking that they have to be this perfect mother who is loving and doting and goes to work and keeps her house like something out of Better Homes and Gardens at all times. The reality is that being a mom is hard, and if you have PPD, it's nearly impossible to function sometimes. Doulas can be an emotional release, a safe space where you can talk about what's really going on and a shoulder to lean on. While they can't treat depression (so you should still speak to your doctor about treatment if you're worried), some mothers opt to continue using a postpartum doula for as many as three months after the birth.
Miscarriage and Infant Loss
Another emotional experience that occurs in 10%-25% of pregnancies, and one that can rock the very core of who you are as a mom, is miscarriage. Doulas are often trained to deal with miscarriage with the utmost sensitivity, holding the space and honoring your baby. The emotions that are felt surrounding a miscarriage are real, and to push them to the side will make recovery even more painful. If you happen to have hired one, a doula can ease these emotions, and help you navigate these painful waters.
The first six weeks postpartum are all about establishing a rhythm and supply if you are breastfeeding. If you are struggling, your postpartum doula can provide support by delivering nutritious meals and snacks, providing referrals to lactation specialists and providing hands on support if latch or hold is a concern.
Adding a new baby to your family can come with a whole host of worries. Will your older child be tended to appropriately? Will they feel left out? Did you do enough to make them feel valued and loved? The answer, very simply, is yes, you did do enough and you are exactly the mother that your children need, know and love. A postpartum doula can help with the sibling transition by coming to your home and spending time with your baby so you can spend some dedicated quality time with your older child or children. Another thing that a doula can do is help you figure out how to manage your time with multiple children, helping to establish a routine for your new family.
Pregnancy After Loss or Trauma
If you have experienced prior birth trauma or infant loss, going through a subsequent pregnancy can be incredibly emotional. A doula can add incredible support and reassurance, and usually is just a text message away when you are worried about a twinge here or tightening there.
Aside from being an emotional compass during pregnancy, birth and postpartum, a doula can also be a resource for topical issues such as infant reflux, natural induction methods and how to process birth trauma. In the event of trauma or stress during pregnancy, we can step in and remind you that your body is doing what it was made for, which is incredibly beautiful.
Depending on when you'd like to use one, you can hire a birth and/or postpartum doula before your third trimester, right before your birth or right afterwards. Start by searching for a certified practitioner on doula association Dona International's website.
At the end of the day, though an essential part of a holistic and mindful birth, a doula can be so much more than a childbirth coach. For many moms and moms-to-be, adding a doula to your care team can provide emotional and mental support for an empowered and positive birth, postpartum recovery and transition to parenthood.
Shannon Moyer-Szemenyei is a lifestyle writer and certified birth and postpartum doula based in Ontario, Canada.