By Cassie Schultz, Founder of Over The Moon Doula Services LLC
What’s a doula? I get that question a lot and I love answering it! Doulas are professionals trained to provide practical and emotional support to families during pregnancy, labor and delivery and the first few months of a baby’s life. There are many types of doulas, but the most common ones are birth and postpartum. Both birth and postpartum doulas are filling gaps in maternity care by tending to the emotional needs of mothers which might be overlooked by caring but busy healthcare providers.
Birth doulas are actually present for the labor and the delivery of a baby. The support we provide mothers is strictly non-medical; as a popular quote goes “doctors and midwives care for women from the waist down, doulas care for them from the waist up” (source unknown). During labor and delivery the birth doula may assist the birthing mother with comfort measure such as positioning, massage and breathing techniques. We also help you understand options you may not even know you have and talk you through any decisions you are faced with.
You may be wondering, “What about the dad?” When the birthing mother has a partner with her, the doula is there to support the couple and coach the partner to support the mother. Sometimes, the birthing couple has a great rhythm and doesn’t need interruption. During these moments we are able to step back and give you privacy, but you have the peace of mind knowing that we are close by when you are ready for our help again!
People often ask if you have to have a “natural” birth to have a doula. I am happy to tell you that at Over The Moon Doula Services LLC, we work with families in a variety of situations. We help you acquire the knowledge you need to make informed choices and support you in those choices. Are you planning an unmedicated home birth? We can ease the intensity of your contractions with a firm “double hip squeeze.” Think an epidural will be the way to go? We can help you get set up with a peanut ball which could shorten your labor time! Planning a Cesarean? We will help you with calming techniques to make your birth peaceful and joyous.
By now you’re probably thinking, “That all sounds great, but are there real benefits for me and my baby?”
Birth doula support has been shown through research to have many benefits for laboring women including lower rates of cesarean sections and shorter labors. The babies of mothers who had continuous labor support are less likely to have low Apgar scores (source: the evidence for doulas).
Birth doulas typically stay for a few hours after birth to make sure everyone in the family has had their needs met and assist with breastfeeding, if the mother chooses to nurse. One postpartum visit within the first few weeks of the baby’s life is typically provided.
But what after the baby is born? Does doula care have to end with a single postpartum visit from the birth doula? Of course not! Enter the postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas act as guides to coach parents through their journey of postpartum recovery and caring for their newborn (whether you’re having your first baby or your fifth!). Postpartum doulas offer many types of support including: emotional, informational, and practical.
Our emotional support includes really being there for parents. We ask mother’s and fathers how they are feeling and really listen to answer. Are you feeling anything less than pure bliss about the arrival of your baby? It’s all right, you can be honest with us. We understand that parenthood includes and ups and downs. Sometimes these ups and downs are a normal part of the process. Sometimes it’s something more, which is why we screen for mood and anxiety disorders such as depression and lead families to the resources they need for recovery.
We teach parents about baby care. Are you feeling at nervous about diapering, dressing or bathing you new infant? Do you have questions about breast or bottle feeding? What about using your fancy new baby wrap or carrier for the first time? We can help with all of that!
You may be thinking, “All this information and support sounds great, but what if I just need some help?” We’re here for that too! Many parents feel shy about asking for help with basic house tasks like dishes or laundry, but as postpartum doulas that is part of our job! We want to keep everything around you running smoothly so you can focus on caring for yourself and your infant.
Here is one last compelling reason to consider adding a postpartum doula to your care team; research has shown that postpartum doulas also offer many benefits to families including lower rates of postpartum depression and less abuse (source: DONA).
If you think a doula might be a good fit for your family but want to learn more you can locate a few local doulas and set up free consultations. If you are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area you can find me and the rest of the Over The Moon team at www.overthemoondoula.com.
Cassie Schultz is a DONA certified postpartum doula and newly trained birth doula and has a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science. She is the founder of Over The Moon Doula Services LLC. She serves families in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area and has a special interest in supporting families through cesarean birth and recovery and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.