Back to the basics: What is a doula? Is it like a midwife? [video + blog]

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Happy World Doula Week! During this week that celebrates the best profession in the world (I may be a bit biased), we're going back to the basics and answering a question that every single doula gets whenever they tell someone what they do for a living. 

what is a doula?

First of all let's start with what a doula isn't: a doula isn't a midwife!

What's the difference between a doula and a midwife?

Midwives, like obstetricians and labor and delivery nurses, are medical professionals that care for pregnant and birthing people (on top of providing pregnancy and well-woman care such as pap smears, annual exams, prescribing birth control, etc). 

So while midwives are also amazing professionals, doulas are not the same thing. Doulas are non-medical support people. We leave all things medical to midwives, OBGYNs, and nurses because they're trained and experienced in keeping mom and baby healthy. 

Our job is a little different. 

A doula is a lot like a wedding planner for people having babies. 

I have blogged about this before, but it's still one of my favorite ways to describe what a doula does. 

Just like a wedding planner isn't a necessity for having an amazing wedding, a doula isn't necessary for a great birth experience. But we can enahance your experience because of the training and experience that we bring the table.

A doula does everything from helping you learn your options during pregnancy and helping you figure out what your ideal birth experience looks like, then empowering you with information and tools to get there and to feel confident pivoting if/when things don't go according to plan (I could go on and on about how a birth plan is more about exploring options and communicating preferences than a set in stone document, but that's a story for another blog...)

Then, just as a wedding planner helps things go smoothly the day of the wedding, a doula does the same thing.

We help you know what to expect, help translate some of the medical terminology you might encounter, help with natural comfort measures through contractions before you get your epidural (or throughout labor if you're not getting an epidural at all).

We also give your partner/mama/whatever loved one is supporting you an extra set of hands so they can take a break to use the bathroom, get some food, etc, without feeling like they're leaving you alone. 

The most important thing is that just as a good wedding planner is making your vision come to life, not theirs, a good doula has no agenda or bias. As doulas, we do not care if our clients have a homebirth, an unmedicated birth in the hospital, an epidural vaginal birth, or a scheduled c-section. Our only concern is that you feel supported and can look back at your birth and feel empowered, connected, in tune with your baby or body, or whatever it is that you decide was the main feeling they wanted to feel.

Postpartum doulas: the travel agent and tour guide for your babymoon. 

A postpartum doula knows babies and knows postpartum recovery. While a baby nurse or nanny is someone that primarily cares for baby, a postpartum doula cares for the whole family to help ease the transition into life with a new baby.

For some families, that looks like taking care of newborn care completely to give the parents a beak. 

For some that's showing them the ropes and helping them get confident in caring for their baby.

For others (a lot, actually) it's taking care of baby overnight so parents can get some sleep and doing other things like meal prepping, dishes, and laundry so that parents can be rested and not have to worry about a thing but recovering from birth and bonding with their family. 

We can also help with breastfeeding and/or introducing a bottle and navigating choosing a formula. 

And we know what normal postpartum recovery, like what to expect as far as normal bleeding looks like or normal mood swings, so we can help recognize when things aren't normal and refer you to your doctor.