Mothers and partners in the Niagara and Hamilton regions are so blessed to have access to many wonderful midwifery clinics. I personally used local midwives for all my pregnancies and had nothing but good experiences with all of them!
That being said, 'in Ontario, a midwife is a registered health care professional who provides primary care to low-risk women throughout pregnancy, labour and birth.' (Association of Ontario Midwives, 2015). While they do spend more labouring time with the mother and partner than an obstetrician, they have so much to attend to during labour that they are not always able to devote 100% of their energy into labour support.
This is where a doula can be a wonderful resource for mothers and their partners. The role of the doula is to solely provide emotional and physical comfort to the mother (and partner alike!), during early and active labour as well as delivery and postpartum.
During pregnancy a doula will meet with the expectant parents 2-3 times before their birth to get to know each other and discuss concerns or fears they may have about the upcoming delivery. Doulas can also help parents access local resources such as prenatal classes, mental health support and postpartum doulas. Many doulas also offer to help their clients work through birth plan ideas and make sure they are set up with enough post partum support for Mom and the new family.
A doula will meet with the parents in the early stages of labour to asses how Mom is coping and provide techniques she feels the labouring woman will find helpful. For some mothers early labour can be long and emotionally challenging, wondering how long it will last and if she can really make it through. Having a doula there will help keep her spirits high and encourage her that she can accomplish the birth she is hoping for. Sometimes just the act of sitting there alongside the mother during labour can be just what she needs to feel supported and empowered to birth her baby on her terms. During this time a doula can also help Mom recognize when it is time to call the midwife (most clinics follow a 5-1-1 or 4-1-1 rules….contractions 4-5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute over the course of 1 hour).
Doulas also provide support for Dads too! This can be a time of uncertainty for new (and experienced) Dads. Having a doula there to reassure Dad that things are going well, or to explain how he can support his partner further can be a relief to many Dads. Many partners pull back during labour, fearful of seeing the person they love in pain, and worried about what is to come. But having a doula there as a second support person can take some of the pressure of having to “hold it all together" off of Dad. Labour can sometimes be longer than expected, or happen in the middle of the night, leaving Dad feeling exhausted and worn down. Knowing a doula is present, will help him to relax and rest, feeling confident his partner is not being left alone.
During those first few weeks postpartum, a doula will be available for the new parents to help answer any questions they may have regarding newborn care, moms postpartum healing and emotions and help direct the new family to any resources they may find helpful, as well as helping both mom and partner work through any hardships they may have faced during the birth or to help clarify any questions they might have from their birth experience. Having a doula can be an irreplaceable resource for your birth!