Doula For Homebirth? Yes, Please!
Congratulations on your upcoming homebirth! You’ve probably chosen a wonderful midwife who you trust and admire. You’ve ordered your birth kit, filled with all the little things you’ll need on hand. Maybe you’ve rented a birth tub and chosen a room in your home where it will best work.
You’ve done all these amazing things that add up to feeling confident and assured, so why add a doula to the list?
Doulas and midwives are BOTH a wonderful part of your birth team. With different but complementary (and sometimes overlapping) roles, a good doula and a good midwife can work together to help you achieve your most amazing birth.
A midwife’s primary role is that of a medical care provider.
She can order tests, determine health, assess risk, and be aware of medical needs. Many midwives also offer physical comfort, a listening ear, relationship, information, and more to their clients. While a medical role, the midwife is so much more than just a person filling out charts, as any woman who has experienced midwifery care can tell you.
A doula’s primary role is to offer non-medical, emotional and physical support.
A doula listens, builds a relationship with the birthing person and any partners and/or support people they have, understands your particular needs, desires, and fears. Her ability to “hold space” is significant and can positively alter your perception of your birth experience.
So if a midwife can also provide emotional connection, physical comfort, and many of the things that doulas are known for, why hire a doula if you already have a midwife?
This is a great question, and here are some reasons why you can benefit from both a doula and a midwife at your home birth.
Labor takes time
Despite the modern sitcom’s ability to show birth in 22 minutes or less, real-life labor and birth takes longer.
A lot longer.
The average first time birth can take anywhere from hours to days, if we start counting labor from the first contraction. Early labor, when your body is warming up and contractions are shorter, easier, and farther apart, can take days.
This isn’t scary, it’s just your body’s way of getting ready and giving you enough time to prepare for the baby.
Women want and expect different things from their birth team, including:
- Only your partner (but not your birth team) there in the early part of labor, so you have time to bond and figure things out.
- You may want to check in with your midwife and/or doula periodically during this time, for reassurance and any questions you may have, but not have them physically present.
- You may want the physical and emotional support a doula provides but don’t feel that you need the medical expertise of your midwife yet.
Whatever your want, the realities and time required to birth a baby means it helps to have more than one person available to meet your needs.
When you hire a doula and incorporate her into your birth team, your midwife is able to perform her most important clinical duties, towards the end of labor, when it matters most. The presence of a doula can free up time and energy so your midwife can be a midwife.
Build your village
Birth has become something of a hidden, mysterious, feared endeavor in our modern day. It happens behind closed doors or in special institutions. Women don’t tell their own daughters about the realities of childbirth, or all women hear are the horror stories.
Preparing for a joyful home birth is more than just eating right and taking a great birth class to learn about the physical things that happen. (Though all that stuff helps!)
Pregnancy is also a time to re-program our own feelings about childbirth. It’s a time to surround yourself with people who believe in and support you.
You really can’t have too many people on your team.
Each individual you invite into your birth space will connect with you in a different way. Each will offer a unique perspective, connection, and support.
The real question is why wouldn’t you want a doula too, who is able to totally focus on supporting your emotional and physical needs and who helps build your village.
All hands on deck
Hospitals operate on a large scale.
Each job is divided, assigned, and carried out by a myriad group of specialists. Hospitals have doctors, sometimes midwives, RNs, housekeeping personnel, laundries, cafeterias, pharmacies and more, all at their disposal and usually under one roof.
However, if you have chosen home birth, there is probably something special about the home environment that you are drawn to or feel safer in- and don’t worry- you don’t need ALL those people to have an amazing birth at home!
But who doesn’t appreciate another person there to start the laundry, bring a wet washcloth, crush ice, run to get your favorite drink, or warm the birth tub, when they are birthing at home?
There is truly a lot to do at a home birth and much of this work, prep, and help, is not medical in nature. Your doula can assist in many ways to prepare the environment and help make your birth space incredible.
There is something magical about being on your own turf with your own people, whom you know and trust. A home birth with a great team can give you what you want and need.
Of course you want someone else there to do all the little wonderful things that bring the magic, so your midwife is freed up to focus on her most important job: working to ensure your safety.
When you hire a doula for your home birth, she doesn’t replace your midwife in any way. They have different, yet complementary roles.
Rather than eclipse the midwife, a good doula adds a helpful hand, increases the strength and support of your birth team, and can help you “go the distance,” even if your labor takes time.
Ideally, a doula and home birth midwife work synergistically together to help you have the birth you want and enjoy the process of labor.
Should you hire a doula for home birth? Yes, please! A doula is a fabulous addition to your home birth team.