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Debunking Five Myths of Doulas

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The roles of doulas can often be misunderstood or not even known. Many people have not even heard the term before or know what it means. The Greek translation of doula is “servant woman,” but the more modern take is “birth assistant.” Doulas are typically women who are passionate about helping mothers through their birth experiences by offering comfort and encouragement.

Debunking 5 Myths of Doulas

While doulas have been attending more births over the last few years, there is still a lot of mystery and misunderstanding around who they are and what they do. Deborah Allen, a DONA-certified doula who has been practicing for 15 years and is the mother of four, offered her expertise to help debunk these common myths surrounding doulas:

A doula would take the place of my husband/partner’s role in labor.

“Most people assume this, but it is absolutely not true,” Deborah said. “A doula is another part of a woman’s birth team. She is meant to enhance and help bring about a positive, memorable birth experience for both mom and dad, including other family members and/or friends.” Deborah went on to explain that a doula’s role is to meet with the parents before birth to understand the mother’s birth plan and wishes for labor and delivery. “In short, a doula is there to enhance the birth experience and team, not to replace anyone.”

Doulas only help with natural birth.

“A doula’s job is not to create a birth experience she thinks a parent should have, but to help create a birth experience that the parents are wanting, which might include forms of pain medications, induction and even cesarean section,” Deborah said. Doulas specialize in assisting laboring women through birth, whether that is drug-free, with an epidural, a scheduled c-section, or even a vaginal delivery after c-section. Their role is to offer comfort and support, regardless of what twists and turns a laboring woman experiences.

I’ve already been through birth once, so I know what to expect and don’t need a doula.

Many moms may feel they understand birth after being through it once and assume that a birth team isn’t as necessary for subsequent pregnancies. “Just like each of your children are the same in some ways, there are many ways they are different and this can be said for birth also,” Deborah said. She went on to explain how every birth is different. “A doula is there for the unexpected things that could happen.”

A doula is too crunchy for me. She might even show up in Birkenstocks.

As Deborah was quick to point out, every doula is different. “One of the most important things about getting a doula is the interview,” she said. “I always suggest interviewing a potential doula prior to hiring one. In fact, I strongly suggest interviewing at least three different doulas because each one is going to be different. Similar to doctors, there are many of them, but not all of them will be for every patient.” So, sure, some doulas may show up in Birkenstocks, but if that doesn’t fit your style, interview a few others until you find the right fit.

A doula will be my voice and talk to the hospital staff for me.

“A doula will not speak for the parents, but she will help to create an environment for the parents to feel comfortable in speaking for themselves.” Deborah explained that a doula is there to help parents understand their options and develop a plan, but the parents are still the ones making the decisions and speaking for themselves with the medical staff.

Doula Debrah AllenDeborah A. Allen is a mother or four (ages 14, 2 and 3-month-old twins), a doula and a wife of 15 years. Deborah is currently breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby wearing her twins, as she did with her previous two children. She has worked at a not-for-profit pregnancy help center, started a local birth networking group and mentored other doulas throughout her career. Her ultimate goal is to attend medical school to work as an obstetrics and gynecological medical doctor.

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{This article first appeared in The Family Magazine of Michiana. Photo credit}

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