All too often I see incorrect information about doulas. What doulas are, what doulas do, who doulas work with.
Let's bust some myths!
Myth: Doulas are for hippies
This is definitely one of the myths I see most frequently. Doulas are only utilized by hippies or people who live more alternative lifestyles and don't fit with mainstream ideals.
The fact is doulas are for everyone! Obviously, there's nothing wrong with "hippies" or living a crunchy or alternative lifestyle, but not everyone identifies with that. I work with people from a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles. I've had clients who are nurses, professors, lawyers, stay-at-home-parents, yoga instructors, musicians, and acupuncturists. Your profession, interests, and lifestyle really have nothing to do with whether you will benefit from doula support.
Similarly, people have an image of doulas as these "earth mother" types that are wary of mainstream medicine and wander about in a cloud of patchouli. The fact is, just like the people we serve, doulas come from diverse backgrounds. We have a variety of lifestyles, interest, histories, personalities, education, and stories about what drew us to birthwork.
Myth: Doulas are only for natural birth
This is the other myth I see most frequently. Doulas are only utilized by people who are planning to have an unmedicated birth and because someone doesn't desire an unmedicated birth, a doula is not for them.
The fact is doulas are for EVERY kind of birth. Unmedicated birth (or natural birth as some people refer to it), births with epidurals, inductions, cesarean birth, any combination of the aforementioned and everything in between. Doulas have skills that are helpful for birth, any kind of birth. We don't support a certain kind of birth, we support birth and we support women. The details are up to you.
Myth: I don't need a doula because I trust my doctor
Or, I don't need a doula because I have a midwife. Some people believe that doulas are present to be an advocate, to be your voice with your care providers to ensure you get the birth that you're wanting. The myth that if you trust your doctor or have a midwife you don't need a doula is rooted in misunderstanding of what role doulas fulfill.
The fact is you can work with a fabulous care provider, a doctor or midwife whom you trust and enjoy, and you can still benefit from having a knowledgeable, objective third-party who can help facilitate conversations and offer specialized skills. Trusting your care provider is important, and in fact, doulas can help foster that trust and understanding.
Additionally, doulas do not replace your care provider. Doulas provide non-medical birth support. We fulfill a complimentary role to meet your needs during birth aside from the medical scope.
Your doctor or midwife's main interest is in the physical health of you and your baby and that's what they are trained to observe and manage and it's a very important job. Doulas are there to provide emotional, physical, and informational support. Ensuring you have appropriate access to information about what's happening medically, offering comfort measures like position changes, counter-pressure, and breathing techniques, and facilitating a calm environment while accompanying you on your journey.
Our job is not to be an advocate. Our job is to support you so that you can be your own advocate. So that you can ask the questions that are necessary to gain information that is important to you. So that you can feel comfortable finding your own voice and speaking on your own behalf.
If I'm your voice I'm just telling you what you should be doing and that's not my place and ultimately that's not what people desire. People want to be an active, empowered participant in their birth and that doesn't come from being told what to do and how to birth.
Myth: Doulas want to be nurses/doctors/midwives
There's a thought out there that people who are doulas choose that job because they want to be a nurse, doctor, or midwife, but they don't want to go through the educational process to become one. Like being a doula is some sort of stop-gap to a bigger dream.
The fact is being a doula is a separate profession and we perform very different roles than a clinical provider. I enjoy seeing to a woman's physical needs during labor whether it be helping to keep her more comfortable through non-medical comfort measures, seeing to the little things like keeping lights low, refreshing a cool wash cloth, or handing her a tube of lip balm before she asks for it, and emotional needs like helping her to process events as they happen and helping her to find her inner strength to accomplish this amazing process that is birth.
I LOVE being a doula. I love performing a unique and important role during birth. I honestly have no desire to be on the clinical side of birth as a doctor, nurse, or midwife and I'm grateful that we have great people in our community fulfilling those very important roles.
Myth: I don't need a doula because my partner is supportive
Or my mom/sister/aunt/cousin/friend will be my doula.
The truth is doulas are trained and knowledgeable professionals. Doulas perform a very specific role that can't be filled by other people. It's so wonderful when a partner is supportive and wants to be hands on, it's also amazing if you have other people close to you who are wanting to be a big part of your baby's birth --the more support the better! In fact, a doula can help guide that support in a practical way.
However, a partner or other loved one can't fulfill the role of a doula. They don't have the training, knowledge, or experience to offer the same kind of tools and skills and very importantly they lack the objectivity that a doula can provide.
Even though we get to know each other prenatally, as your doula I will never have the same emotional connection that you have with your partner or loved one. At the same time, they can never remove that connection and provide support in an objective way. Sometimes being emotionally invested can be a hindrance rather than a help and they can benefit from some outside support themselves.
Myth: Doulas are there because they like babies
Like babies? Become a doula! Or... not.
The truth is doulaing is about women. While babies are great and all, and seeing the birthing process is always amazing, doulaing isn't about babies at its heart. Doulas support and honor women. Women are at the heart of birth and women deserve to have a supported birth experience.
I suspect that if someone attends births because they like babies they would burn out very quickly. Being a doula is challenging and there are much easier and more scheduled ways of interacting with babies.
Have you heard any other doula myths that I didn't address?