When I attend a hospital birth, I wear my super-awesome, pink, “I’m the doula!” t-shirt. In a setting with a large variety of people with different roles, I figured that proclaiming my role with a happy pink shirt would be both efficient and simple. Besides, it makes for great conversations in the elevator as I’m leaving, and fellow passengers are wondering what on earth I DO, anyways.
(On a total side note, my absolute most favorite question about doulas was told to me by a Dad I’d recently helped. He went back to work after paternity leave, and told a co-worker about how he loved having a doula, doulas are awesome, best decision they’d made for that birth….the co-worker asked “soooo….what is a doula, exactly? Is that a special kind of bathtub?” That still cracks me up.)
This time, the question was very specific; what IS the difference between what you do, and what a midwife does? This seems to be a common bit of confusion, as I’ve mentioned my work several times to hear in response “oh, like a midwife?”
Let’s see if I can clear a bit of this up….
- Extensive Medical training; often equivalent to a Master’s Degree
- Oversees the clinical side of your care
- Often are also Registered Nurses (CNM)
- Monitors your physical health and safety during labor
- Will catch–or oversee someone else catch–your baby
- Assesses your health and your baby’s health after birth
- Can administer medicines, such as antibiotics or pitocin
- Is able to perform stitching of smaller tears
- Can perform gynecological exams, and offer contraceptive prescriptions, if you want
- “provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth”
- Certification (if pursued) is roughly equivalent to ten to fifteen college credits
- Acts as part labor coach, part personal attendant, part best friend, part favorite aunty, part birthing wiki-person
- Focuses on your physical comfort and emotional peace
- Helps you work through every contraction
- Encourages you and reminds you of your goals
- Helps your husband know how to best support you
- Gets your water, your crackers, your favorite fuzzy socks, your bathrobe, your phone–any and everything you need to stay strong
- Encourages movement and helps with position changes to keep baby moving down
I’ve always thought that doulas complete the circle of care around a woman; her partner, her doctor or midwife, and her nurse are all important parts of that circle. But the most important thing is that a mother feels completely encircled with loving and knowledgeable care!