Thanks to the media and misinformation, the general public’s view of what a doula does is often far from the truth. Even many doulas-to-be go into training believing a few of these myths. I know I did.
When I tell people I am a doula I usually end up either explaining what a doula is, or correcting one of these common stereotypes.
I don’t mind though. I love telling people about what I do and giving them an accurate picture of how we contribute to any type of birth team. I hope doulas will be mainstream in the future and these myths no longer the norm. Until then, let me equip you with a few doula truths!
MYTH: Doulas are like midwives.
TRUTH: Doulas are non medical physical and emotional support for the mother and partner. Midwives are highly trained medical care providers who have equipment and medications with them to help keep mom and baby safe during the birth. It is out of a doulas “Scope of Practice” to perform medical tasks or assessments, diagnose, treat or even give medical advice. Doulas leave the medical side to the medical professionals and focus on supporting you continually.
MYTH: Doulas are your advocate.
TRUTH: Doulas teach and empower you to advocate for yourself. I will help you prepare for your birth and encourage you to ask the right questions during your birth. That way you can make informed decisions for yourself and your family.
I went in to my training with grand visions of being a woman’s advocate. I left with the realization that that not only was that out of scope, but that was not my place. Nothing is more empowering than making important and informed choices for yourself. That is the mother’s privilege, not mine.
MYTH: Doulas overstep or replace your partner.
TRUTH: Doulas teach and encourage your partner to support you even better. Before the birth, I will discover to what level your partner wants to be involved with the birth process. Some partners want to be as involved as possible. I model techniques and give suggestions to them as they support the mom, giving them breaks when they need it. For the ones that are apprehensive or feeling clueless about the process, I may be more hands on with the mom as they focus on supporting her emotionally throughout the process. Either way, they know their partner and I know birth. We play our strengths to create the best outcome.
MYTH: Doulas are a bunch of hippies.
TRUTH: Although many doulas are on the “crunchy” side there are just as many more who are not. There are crunchy doulas, edgy doulas, conservative doulas, young doulas, old doulas even male doulas. Doulas come in all varieties. We can thank the media for this particular doula myth.
MYTH: The “student doula”.
TRUTH: When you finish your training you are a fully fledged doula. I see many posts looking for “a doula in training” or “student doula” asking for services for free or steeply reduced. Unless the individual has not completed their training, they are a doula and provide a valuable service. This “student doula” mentality hurts the whole doula community. New doulas are expected to give away their services and if they buy into that mindset they end up undercutting and hurting the rest of the doulas. In the case of true financial need, most doulas will work with you via a payment plan or even bartering to help make it happen.
MYTH: Doulas are only for home births.
TRUTH: I will assist your birth at home, a birth center or hospital. Wherever you are most comfortable birthing in I will support you there. In my opinion I feel that doulas are actually the most helpful in a hospital setting. Doulas can help you navigate interventions and encourage you to ask the right questions to be sure you are getting all the information to give informed consent.
MYTH: Doulas are only for natural birth.
TRUTH: Doulas help make births with epidurals or other pain management more comfortable and productive. I know techniques to help open the pelvis even while in bed resting with an epidural. If a planned cesarean is the route that is best for you, I will support you through that process.
I think there have been many factors that contributed to these doula myths being so prevalent over the years. I have heard the “rogue doula” stories of doulas throwing a fit and leaving when a mother gets a epidural. Or even times when they have been kicked out of the hospital room for performing medical tasks or arguing with the doctor.
Those acts, each stepping away from the role and ideals of a doula, have created a negative impact on how the media and mainstream views doulas.
The support a professional doula provides benefits the whole birth team yet the only about 3-5% of women hire doulas. Many women have heard these myths, and because of them, feel a doula wouldn’t fit their type of birth. These stereotypes need to be shattered.
It has been clinically proven that a doula’s support reduces the risk of cesarean by 28%. Right now 1/3 of births are by cesarean. Can you imagine how birth outcomes would change if doulas were mainstream?
Help me break down those stereotypes that prevent women from feeling that a doula would benefit their birth. Share the truth about doulas and it will benefit birthing families everywhere.
Report on women’s childbirth experiences: http://www.childbirthconnection.org/pdfs/LTMII_report.pdf
Clinical trial report: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17;10:CD003766. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23076901