“I have an obstetrician, why would I want a doula?”
This is a question I get asked very regularly. It’s almost as if having an OB or going through the private hospital system means that having a doula is not a relevant choice for you.
Doulas can fulfil many roles for pregnant women and their partners or families, but the important thing to remember is that a doula is not a medical specialist. A doula’s role is never to give medical advice, and any doula who thinks that they have the right or training to do so, is completely working outside of their scope. With this is mind, there is no reason that a doula can’t work in any environment..Whether that is a homebirth, public hospital system or private system with an OB.
To understand why a doula can work very happily with any medical care provider, it is important to explain the diversity of a doula’s role. During the antenatal period doulas can help with child birth preparation and birth preferences. They can go to medical appointments with their client, guide them through whatever system they are choosing to birth in, and develop a relationship with their care providers, helping to establish a calm and consistent environment on the “big day”. Another thing to remember, is that very often labour kicks off at home and many people like to labour at home for as long as they possibly can. A doula usually supports this, turns up to the home and provides guidance and support to help the labouring woman feel confident and comfortable. If a woman is birthing in the hospital system, no midwife or OB is ever going to help with this and this provides a unique comfort measure for many women.
Birth is not usually a quick event either. Even when women head to the hospital, the time spent in the delivery suite before baby is born, can be many hours, and during this time numerous midwives can come and go. A doula, stays with the labouring woman the entire time, providing a consistent, continuous support. If everything goes to plan as well, often an OB is really not with the labouring woman for very long. Although the midwives are usually in contact with an OB as to how their client is going, a private OB is usually very happy with midwives providing most of the medical care until the delivery. Of course if any intervention is needed within the private system, an OB performs this and makes all the decisions regarding how and what intervention is needed. Even if your delivery ends in a c section, unless it is an emergency, your doula can usually come into the operating theatre of a private hospital. OB’s often recognise the support that the doula is not only offering the pregnant woman, but her partner at this stage. Operating theatres can be a confronting and stressful environment for many people, and doulas can guide and reassure partners as to what is happening and what to do.
The next thing to remember, that a lot of OB’s recognise, is that doulas can provide amazing postnatal support. Some people just want an antenatal and birth doula, but some people know that the postnatal period might be a challenge and extra support will help them into their parenthood journey. A doula can do everything from offering guidance on lactation and settling, through to cooking meals, light housework and even just providing an ear to talk through all the new struggles parents might be facing. OB’s are certainly available to help with medical concerns in the first few weeks, but are happy to refer doula support to new parents to give them an extra set of hands with their newborn.
As can be seen, the most important thing to choose is the “right”medical care provider for you. I love working within both the private and public hospital system and have never met an OB who doesn’t have the best interest of a woman and baby as their main priority. If you are thinking of having your baby within the private system, and want a doula, research which OB’s work with doulas. See if those OB’s will recommend any doulas and always remember that you can interview as many doulas as you need to develop a connection with the “right” doula.
I hope this explains why doulas and OBs can be a very compatible part of your birth team. I have worked with numerous OB’s and have only ever experienced respect from them. The thing to remember, is that birth can happen in a variety of ways, in a variety of settings and surprise even the most experienced midwife or OB. Arm yourself with as much education and information as you can (try and do an independent childbirth education class), feel confident in your choices and remember to try and relax into your last few months of pregnancy and birth.