Interview: What is a Doula?

Today's blog is super special because it features someone other than myself & my clients! I have many clients (and friends!) that ask me about what exactly a doula is and what they do. I have been wanting to do a blog post for awhile now on this topic but I didn't quite know where I wanted to start. I finally came to the thought- I would interview an actual Doula! How more personal & accurate can your information be than straight from a Doula herself! :)

I wanted to share some statistics I found that came from the benefits of having a Doula. 

1. 50% reduced risk of cesarean births.  2. 25% shorter labors.  3.60% less epidural requests.  4. 40% reduction of used pitocin.  5. 30% less requests for pain mediation  6. 40% reduction of use of forceps during delivery. HOW CRAZY is that?! So so awesome. 

Today's featured Doula is Rachel Mueller from Near To You Doula. Rachel has been a certified Doula since June of 2010 and serves families all over Northeast Ohio. Below are some questions I asked Rachel & she answered them so beautifully. 

What exactly is a Doula and what do they do?

Rachel: A Doula is a trusted companion, educator, and support person for the expectant family. She is a caring, calming and reassuring presence. This support is unique because the doula is the only facet of the birthing team that never leaves the mothers side. During labor, she provides non judgmental physical, emotional, non-pharmacological support and pain management. The Doula is an expert in labor progress. She comes prepared with tools to help the laboring woman stay relaxed and focused. Many coping mechanisms are used including, massage, breathing, positions, movements, visualization, guided imagery, affirmations, music, scents, and hydrotherapy. The Doula is knowledgeable in hospital practices, advises the couple throughout on the risks, benefits and options of suggested procedures and interventions. The Doula is a protector of the sacred birth environment. She maintains the utmost respect for hospital staff. 

How does someone become a doula? What type of training & certifications are needed?

Rachel: Anyone with a passion for helping people and caring spirit can become a doula. There are even "dudelas" (Male Doulas).  Each certifying agency has its own requirements and training, Most include, membership in the organization, breastfeeding class, CPR course, 3 day workshop, extensive reading list, essays, labor experience of 6-10 births, and submitted evaluations from couples, Nurses, Obstetricians, and Midwives. After completing the requirements your file is reviewed and your certified.  Recertification is required every 3 years. I began my training is 2008 and completed it in June of 2010. Currently, I am a DONA Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula. I also have certifications, from Waterbirth International, Spinning Babies, TENS use for Doulas, Relax BIrth Trained, ICEA Childbirth Education trained.

How many births have you attended? 

Rachel: I am excited to be nearing 100 births attended! 96 and counting. As a Birth and Postpartum Doula, I have worked with 140 families since June of 2010. 

Are doulas only for mamas or are planning a natural labor & delivery?

Rachel: Absolutely not! A doula should support the couples ideal vision for their birth even if it includes an epidural or scheduled Cesarean. Everything short of Cesarean birth is a natural labor and birth. I prefer to describe it as Medicated or Non-medicated birth. Medications, when used appropriately can be beneficial for labor progress. If a scheduled Cesarean is necessary, a doula's guidance, education and support is even more valuable.

What all is included when you book your doula services?

Rachel: My services include a complimentary consultation to answer all your preliminary questions. Two Prenatal visits. The first prenatal is an intake session where we get to know each other better,  learn about your birth preferences, discuss concerns, and give referrals, The second prenatal is a labor trial.  We finalize your birth plan, and practice the comfort measures, positions and movements, During labor is not the best time to give detailed instructions. Continuous labor and delivery support can begin in your home if you chose to labor at home as long as possible or we will meet at the hospital. I will stay with you for a couple hours after birth or once breastfeeding is established. Also included are unlimited phone and internet support,  breastfeeding education, and a postpartum visit at your request, in your home within 12 weeks of birth.  Additional services include, childbirth education, montrice, photography, video, written birth story, placenta encapsulation, placenta art, essential oils, TENS, Aroma Touch Massage, and postpartum care. Montrice Services are only available for Home Birth Clients. 

How many clients do you take per month?

Rachel: I take 4-7 clients per month. 4 Birth and 2 postpartum. If the demand for doulas is high I will take on more births with a partner or co-doula.

How does a doula interact with dad during the laboring process?

Rachel: It is important to remember that this is Dad's birth experience too. In my initial consultation with the dad, I explain that a doula is like a personal trainer whose expertise is birth. We won't do it for you but we will give you guidance, direction, instruction and praise. That allows for the dad to be emotionally available to their partner, participate fully and enjoy all the benefits. In our prenatal visits we discuss how involved dad would like to be, mom's expectations for dad, and how to reconcile the two.

What techniques do you find most helpful to mamas who are laboring?

Rachel: I have found that touch and massage are the most helpful in labor. Touch reinforces the knowledge that someone is right there with you every step, struggle, hurdle, and grand accomplishment of the birth process. Along with reassuring touch comes praise, soft spoken positive words and phrases, that tell the laboring mom how strong and amazing she is. We don't get to chose our labor but we do control how we cope with it. It can be something as simple as a cool cloth on the head or remembering to turn on her playlist that makes all the difference. I must also mention the techniques taught by spinning babies. Labor can be shortened and more manageable if the position of baby is corrected. Spinning babies teaches those techniques and I have found them invaluable. 

How long do you stay after the birth?

I usually stay 2 hours. It is important to help the Mother establish breastfeeding, If necessary, I will help a couple move to and settle in to their postpartum room. I make sure the Mom has been fed and is resting comfortably before leaving the new family. After a Cesarean I will stay until a Mom is in recovery, stable, and baby has nursed. 

I asked Rachel if she had any final thoughts to our interview and this is what she closed with..

"The Doula/Client relationship is intimate and precious. I treasure every opportunity to be present when a new life enters the world. A joyous, empowering birth experience is our greatest accomplishment.  I work tirelessly to help make it happen in spite of all the unpredictable circumstances of labor.  It is a privilege to serve families on the most important day of their lives. I'm truly blessed."

So there you all have it! What a Doula is & just how amazing they are. They're your advocate, your cheerleader, in your corner. They are experienced. To get in touch with Rachel, her contact information is listed below. Thanks so much for reading & a huge thanks to Rachel for taking the time to answer all our questions! :)

Rachel Mueller CD(DONA), PCD(DONA)                                                            330-209-5351  www.neartoyoudoula.com