Pregnancy and childbirth are difficult experiences for many women, but for Utahn Jenn Parker the experience was smooth because of the help she received from her doula, or birth coach.
“I had a whole support team, and it was wonderful,” Parker said, who has given birth to two children. “She would push on certain pressure points and help me be as comfortable as I could be. She made is so my husband could be right by my side the entire time and not having to help with other things,” Parker said.
A doula’s role depends on the family they are assisting, but their focus is to provide educational, physical and emotional support throughout pregnancy and labor.
“We complete the circle of care and support for the family, whether at home or at a hospital or at a birth center. We are there to help complete that support team so that they can have a positive experience,” said Whitney Lancaster, a certified doula with Davis County Doulas.
Doulas will typically meet with their clients two times during their pregnancy to build a birth plan.
“At the prenatal appointments, we talk about how they want us to fit into that birth experience and how we can help them achieve their birth experience for their birth goals,” said Bonnie Baker, a doula with Davis County Doulas.
Every birthing situation is different, and doulas are trained to bring support to a variety of different delivery situations.
“Some moms need to be induced, so we support them in the process of the induction. Other moms labor at home until she feels ready to go to the hospital,” Baker said. “If there is a medical situation with mom and baby then sometimes that means we’re there a little bit longer providing support. It may be an unexpected experience or maybe it may be an anticipated experience. We’re there to help them.”
Doulas also help with postpartum healing. This often includes lactation consulting and postpartum depression check-ins.
Aleena Hill of Nampa, Idaho, decided to become a doula after experiencing postpartum depression.
“Doulas have a whole training on postpartum depression that outlines the signs. We are trained to see them and help them. I struggled terribly with postpartum depression, and looking back I had all the signs,” Hill said.
The mother’s and family’s anxiety levels are often decreased throughout the entire experience because they know they have an expert to advocate for them.
“Our role really is to be a cushion for the birthing family,” Lancaster said. “There have been numerous studies that show that having a doula increases birthing satisfaction, even if nothing with your birth happens, you are happier with the experience.”