What's A Doula?
Doulas are non-medical childbirth companions who provide mental, emotional and physical support to women and their families during birth and after. Doulas of the Southwest is a group of independent doulas who work together to advocate for and educate about the role of the doula in the Albuquerque area. We are not a collective, a co-op or a doula agency, but a group of private doulas who support each other's work and provide information for the community.
Our group has both birth and postpartum doulas.
Q: What is a birth doula?
"A birth doula" refers to a supportive companion (other than a friend or loved one) who is professionally trained to provide labor support. She performs no clinical tasks. A doula provides physical, emotional and information support to women and their partners during labor and birth; help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, massage and positioning; assistance to families in gathering information on the course of their labor and their options; continuous emotional reassurance and comfort; non-medical skills such as massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures; assistance to partners who want to play an active support role; help so the woman has a safe and satisfying childbirth experience as the woman defines it." -DONA
Q: What is a postpartum doula?
"Postpartum doulas are trained in postpartum adjustment, nursing assistance, newborn characteristics, care, feeding and development, and the promotion of parent-infant bonding. There is a great deal of evidence suggesting that quality support can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to the family. By educating, tending to the needs of the parents, infants and children and by offering quality referral information, the postpartum doula can ease and enhance the postpartum experience." -DONA
Q: What if I already know that I want pain medication or an epidural...can a doula still help me?
A doula's role is to support a woman's choice to have the birth SHE chooses. Doulas are trained to work with both medicated and unmedicated births; all births can benefit from doula care. Women who opt for pain medication (narcotics/epidural) often have questions about their options/decisions and may need assistance with finding comfortable positions in bed. And of course, they still need emotional support for both mom and partner. In the case of a Cesarean birth (planned or otherwise), a doula (if allowed in the operating room) can be a great support and source of information and reassurance during the delivery and immediately following the operation, when dad/partner may be with the baby.
Q: Can doulas work in the setting that I am choosing to labor and birth?
Doulas travel to wherever the woman chooses to give birth (hospital, birth center or home) and will discuss with you the arrangements for the birth day and how she will coordinate with you when labor begins. For some, this could mean laboring at home with you until it's time to go to the hospital, or it could mean waiting until you are admitted and feel you are ready for her assistance. All doulas carry their phones on them 24/7 and are prepared to respond to their clients day or night. Doulas also work with backup doulas in case of an overlap in client deliveries, illness, or other unforeseen events that could mean the need for another doula to fill in for her.
Q: What if my husband or partner will be supporting me during labor?
A doula doesn't take the place of other people who will be at the birth. In fact, doulas can guide them and help them to feel more confident in being a support person. Working side by side, the doula and the other support person(s) create a team, which helps to ensure your comfort and peace of mind. An extra pair of hands can go a long way - especially when your partner needs a restroom break, time to eat, rest or make phone calls to friends and relatives. In addition, nurses, midwives and doctors, while caring for multiple patients, cannot be with you from early labor through your postpartum bonding and breastfeeding moments, but a doula can be! A doula bridges these gaps by being with the mother continuously and being present to care just for her and her partner.
Dads and partners are sometimes skeptical about the need for a doula and wonder if by having a doula present for the birth, they will be replaced or somehow overlooked. This is a common concern, especially for first-time dads who aren't sure what to expect during birth. However, a doula can be a dad/partner's best friend! After a birth, we often hear dads/partners say things like, "I couldn't have done it without you!" or "You really helped me to stay involved in everything!" Following their baby's birth, these dads often tell co-workers who are expecting, "You really should hire a doula for your birth!"
Q: Are doulas hired by the hospital or by me?
The Doulas of the Southwest work as independent contractors and are chosen and hired by the parents themselves. Thus, YOU and YOUR BABY are our main concern and take our full focus.
Q: What are the benefits of having a private doula rather than a hospital doula?
When you hire a private doula, you are choosing someone based on their level of experience, their specialties, and how comfortable you and your partner feel while interacting with that person. You will most likely choose a primary doula and a back-up doula, two people you can count on to support you throughout your labor and birth. They will meet with you several times before your baby is born, usually in your home. After the birth, they will follow-up with a postpartum visit in your home. The person that you hire is very likely to be the one you will speak with on the phone, who will support you during labor and help you to process your birth afterwards.
When you use a hospital doula program, you are agreeing to use any and sometimes several of the doulas on their staff. Prenatally, you may speak with a doula, but they are not likely to be the doula on-call when you go into labor. If you are laboring through a shift change, you are likely to be supported by the next doula on-call. Home visits are not part of the package. If you want support at home, you can hire a postpartum doula through the hospital. The benefits of using the hospital doula program include lower costs and the opportunity to meet and work with several doulas.
Q. When should I hire a doula?
As soon as you know you want one! We recommend contacting doulas well before your 3rd trimester to assure you can hire and build a relationship with the right doula for you. Generally, doulas will have more availability earlier in your pregnancy.
Q. Will my doula provide other services?
Some doulas are trained in other services, like placenta encapsulation, yoga, reiki, massage therapy, and more. Ask the doulas you interview if they provide any services other than doula support. Chances are, your doula will be happy to put together a package that includes birth or postpartum support and any other services you desire.