Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Preparing for birth and parenting can feel like an impossible task at times, especially when there are so many options AND opinions out there. This is where doulas come in! Although doulas are a relatively new profession in Malta, around the world doulas are widely used, highly respected, and well researched birth workers who continue to improve outcomes for people who are pregnant, birthing or in their postpartum.
If you haven't heard about what a doula is and what we do you can learn more - here (insert link to Chiara's article)- Not everyone will choose to or be able to have a doula attend them during birth, but there are many ways a doula can help you prepare during pregnancy to ensure a gentle and confident transition for you and your family. Here is my list of 20 ways a doula can help you.
1. Help you define your needs, wants and goals.
Doulas are great at coaching you to really dig deep into finding out what is important for you and how you can make this happen. Every situation is unique, every birthing person is unique and every baby is unique, so what your friend, neighbour or family member did may not be right for you and your situation. A doula can help you figure out your path.
2. Help your partner feel confident in their changing and evolving role.
Partners can often feel lost and alone which can influence their self-esteem, relationships, bonding and how they parent. Doulas are a great support for partners, giving them easy to understand and practical advice on how they can support you, themselves and your baby as you all grow and evolve as a family.
3. Help you sift through all of the information to find content relevant to you.
There is so much information out there, it can be really overwhelming trying to sift through it all yourself. A doula will be able to point you in the right direction based on your situation and your needs. Doulas spend a lot of time continuously educating themselves so you can rest assured information provided is up to date.
4. Connect you with other health professionals.
Doulas are great at networking and forging relationships with other health professionals! If you are experiencing something outside of a doulas scope of practice, they will likely know a great provider who can help you. If not, they will know exactly who to ask to find the provider you need, saving you time and energy!
5. Provide you with current, evidence based information for making informed choices.
Informed choice has to be central to modern maternity care. If you haven't been given correct, evidence based information, with both the pros and cons, you cannot make an informed choice. Doulas are a great sounding board to help ensure you have been given the information you need to make decisions or providing you with some helpful questions you can ask to help get the information you are looking for.
6. Teach you/your partner techniques for balancing your pelvis and preparing your body.
Helping your baby into a great position is an amazing tool for facilitating ease and comfort during birth for both you and your baby! Simple, yet effective techniques can help prepare your body and make space for your baby. Doulas can often teach you and your partner how to balance your pelvis and physically prepare your body for childbirth.
7. Helping you create birth and postpartum plans.
All of the preparations you have been doing to prepare for birth and your postpartum can easily be put into a two documents which can be shared with your team, medical care providers or other support people. This is a powerful tool for organising your thoughts and letting others know what is important to you. Doulas can help you formulate these plans and make suggestions if there are areas you may have overlooked. It is often the process of creating the plan which has most value, allowing you to be more knowledgeable and flexible if a change of plans is necessary.
8. Teach you different techniques for pain management.
Even if you are planning to use medicinal pain relief, it is very beneficial to learn other techniques for coping with birthing pains! Doulas know a lot of tricks for making birth more comfortable and can teach you and your partner the best ones!
9. Show you different positions for labouring and birthing.
Moving around and dancing during the opening phase of your birth is not only great for your own comfort, but it also helps facilitate the whole birth process. Doulas love movement and practicing different positions for different stages ahead of time can make them more easily accessible to you during your birth. It can also help your partner feel confident in guiding you and suggesting different positions when you may not want to focus on anything but breathing!
10. Help you choose the best team to support you.
Choosing who to have with you may seem like an easy task, but if you take a closer look into what this person or these people bring to you and your birthing space, the answer may not be as clear. Doulas are experts at harnessing people's greatest qualities and amplifying them during birth, so they can help you figure out who will be an asset to you based on the skills they possess, combined with what you need, and not simply who will be there by default.
11. Guide you in preparing for your postpartum.
There is a lot of emphasis placed on giving birth, and rightly so! It is a major life event! But birth is generally a 1-3 day affair, whereas postpartum and definately parenting will last a lifetime. Doulas are passionate about new mothers and parents. We love babies but I think we love new mothers even more. Preparing for your postpartum can greatly improve your chances of having a gentle transition and a doula can help you to give the same amount of attention on postpartum preparation as birth preparation.
12. Provide you with help, guidance and resources on infant feeding.
Doulas are experienced in many different ways of feeding infants whether that is breastfeeding, cup feeding, syringe or finger feeding, bottle feeding, pumping, using supplemental milk and combinations of them all! As knowledgeable breastfeeding supporters doulas can help work through any issues you may be having and connect you with other breastfeeding specialists and lactation consultants if need be. This type of support is often given in your home so you don't need to stress about taking your baby out, and you can be comfortable using the items you have in your own home.
13. Teach you tips and tricks for thriving during the 4th trimester.
Doulas have a lot of different tips and tricks for 4th trimester parenting which can suit many different parenting styles. From soothing and calming newborns to parenting hacks you can't live without! We don't tell you what to do, but help build up and strengthen your intuition so you can confidently meet your newborn's needs while also paying attention to your needs.
14. Give you support and encouragement when advocating for your rights.
Unfortunately not everyone practices evidence based, individual maternity care, and it is important you have support backing you up if you encounter something that isn't right for you or your situation. Doulas have your back and can help you gather resources and empower you to use your voice when advocating for your rights.
15. Provide resources on human rights in childbirth and how to ensure they are being respected.
Doulas are usually well versed in human rights in childbirth and the situations where you can accept or decline care. If these rights aren't being respected, your doula will likely know who you can contact for legal advice, whether that be in your country of residence or internationally.
16. Listen to YOU and YOUR experience.
Doulas want to know how YOU are doing, and what YOU are experiencing without judgement or attachment. This allows you to be open and honest with all of the different emotions and situations which may arise. Doulas care deeply about how you are being treated and want to be a safe space for you to tell your story.
17. Many doulas offer other services.
Doulas often combine different skills and professions with birth work. Whether these are complementary therapies, courses or other services, take advantage of their knowledge in other areas!
18. In person and/or online support.
Especially in today's current climate, more and more doulas are providing their services online as well as in-person. Simply being able to send a message to your doula when your birthing time starts or to share any small successes with someone who 'gets it' can make a world of difference!
19. Help you uncover and work through fears and concerns.
Fear surrounding pregnancy, birth and parenting is a common topic doulas discuss with the families they are working with. They can help you determine where any fears or concerns are coming from and whether or not medical help should be sought out. In many cases lack of information and a sense of losing control are contributing factors to fear and doulas can help alleviate this with good information, a steady calm presence and lots of encouragement.
20. Believe in you and your ability to make the best choices for you and your baby!
Doulas believe in you. We believe you and your partner know what is best for your baby. We are there for you when you are rejoicing, when you may be feeling insecure or even grieving. We want YOU to be healthy, happy and whole! We know how easily this process can affect your self-esteem, in either direction. We believe 100% in strengthening mothers and parents so they can be a healthy source of strength for their families and for their communities.
There are some amazing doulas in Malta and I highly recommend getting in touch with any one of us to see how we can help you prepare for your pregnancy, birth and postpartum with confidence and calm!
Doulas support all types of pregnancies, births and families, regardless of how they are created or unfold.
Doulas do not have any medical responsibility. Our services are complementary and don't replace medical care. Please contact your medical provider for any questions regarding your health or the health of your baby!