Rhiley Binns, Birth Doula ● rhiley@rbdoula.com ● (515) 218-2482

DOULA 101

Haven't heard of doulas before or wanting to learn more?  It's okay, you're definitely not alone!  Here are my answers to some of the most common questions:

What is a doula?

The word doula (pronounced DOO-luh) comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "a woman who serves".  Today, a doula is a non-medical professional who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to birthing persons before, during, and just after childbirth.

As an incredibly brief history: you may not have heard of doulas because their role in birth originated during the 1960s and became more widely popularized in the 1970s and 1980s.​  Years ago, women gave birth largely with skilled midwives at home, supported by other knowledgable women in their families and communities.  However, with the movement of birth largely into the medical realm in the 20th century, this support was lost.  To fulfill the need to provide experienced support to birthing persons (and not just to the process of birth itself), the role of the doula was born!

Source

 

What does a doula do?

As a doula, my primary job is to help birthing persons and their birth partner to create positive memories of their pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum experience through individualized support.

Doula support falls into three primary categories :

I N F O R M A T I O N A L

Being available and responsive via text/call/email throughout your pregnancy

Providing evidence-based

information on pregnancy and birth topics upon request

Suggesting non-medical ideas/ solutions when appropriate, in cooperation with care provider

E M O T I O N A L

Understanding and supporting

your ideal care, hopes, and fears for your birth experience

Supporting and teaching you and your birth partner to advocate for your ideal care

Continuous labor support (I don't have a shift change, I'm there the whole time.)

P H Y S I C A L

Pain relieving measures including birth positions, massage, breathing/

relaxation techniques, rebozo, & more

Knowledge of the stages of labor and the unique challenges they can present

Training your birthing partner in labor support techniques so they can be involved in the birth experience

Lactation and feeding support

 
 

What are the benefits of a doula?

Current research shows that people who birth with doulas are less likely to have unnecessary medical interventions during their labor and birth and are also less likely to be dissatisfied with or negatively rate their childbirth experience (see sources below).

According to the largest systematic review of continuous labor support by the Cochrane Review, which was updated in 2017 and encompasses 27 large-scale rigorous scientific studies, individuals birthing with a trained labor companion like a doula were:

  • 39% less likely to have a c-section.

  • 35% less likely to rate their childbirth experience negatively.

  • 15% more likely to have a "spontaneous" vaginal birth (no forceps/vacuum extraction).

Anecdotally speaking, a doula will help you and your birth partner learn about the many options and choices you have during pregnancy and birth, discover ways to advocate for and have confidence in yourself that are authentic to your personalities, and support you every step of the way.  Most of the events that can create the fundamental memories of our lives have people who can help us to envision, prepare for, and, hopefully, fondly remember them: students have mentors, athletes have trainers, weddings have planners, homes have realtors.  Birth has doulas.

Sources:

American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG)

Cochrane Review

Evidence Based Birth

 

What isn't a doula?

During your doula search, you may have noticed some differences in the approaches of doulas.  There are a variety of organizations that train and certify doulas, including DONA, CAPPA, and ICEA.  I am trained and certified by DONA International, the world's first, largest, and leading doula certifying organization.  As such, I abide by DONA's Birth Doula Code of Ethics and Scope of Practice​ and am not:

A doctor, midwife, nurse, or other medical professional.
As a doula, my role is to act as a non-medical professional who compliments and hopefully enhances the work of your primary care team, not to take its place.  I do not perform medical/clinical tasks.  I also don't "prescribe" ideas or solutions that could confer medical benefits/risks: I always advise clients to check in with their provider before applications.

Your voice.
I ceaselessly support clients, but I never speak in their place. I will encourage you and your birth partner to ask questions of your care provider and let them know about your preferences and concerns.  If approaches to care change during your birth, I will help you to incorporate these changes and interface communication with your provider as needed.

An aromatherapist.
Aromatherapy is outside of the DONA Birth Doula Scope of Practice.  As a DONA-trained doula, I do not "prescribe" or provide pure essential oils or essential oil dilutions to clients.

If aromatherapy is an essential part of your ideal care, we can work together to find an approach within my scope.

A personal agenda.
The best birth is one where the birthing person feels understood, heard, and wholly cared for.  During prenatal meetings, I work with clients to establish holistic understanding of their desires, hopes, and potential concerns for their birth experience.  Then, we collaborate to develop a care guide for their birth experience based on their ideal vision.