A common misconception of doula care is that it either replaces your care team (midwife, doctor, nurse, or partner), or that her presence can be at odds with your care team. A well-trained doula is committed to a code of ethics that defines her role as supportive and professional, not combative and territorial. Her communication with the entire team should reflect this, even when tensions are high.
How should a doula interact with…?
1. Your Doctor
The doctor is trained specifically to ensure that you and your baby have a safe, healthy birth outcome, where a doula is on hand specifically for comfort and information sharing. Her role should not cross those boundaries. While she may provide you with evidence-based information about specific procedures or conditions, it is not her place to speak for you to your doctor. A well-trained doula will act with professionalism towards your doctor and not try to countermand your doctor’s actions or advise. Communicating effectively and with professionalism is important for the doula.
2. Your Midwife
A doula’s role with a midwife mirrors that with a doctor. Midwives tend to be more accustomed to or open to a doula’s presence; however, it is still important for the doula not to cross that line into medical care.
3. Hospital Nursing Staff
There can be a lot of crossover in the roles of nurses and doulas. Although the nurses will be monitoring vitals and potential problems, they often are well versed in comfort measures, positioning, and encouragement that a doula might also provide. In my experience, working side-by-side with nurses has been a joy. They often can help provide supplies that a doula might not have handy and can provide extra hands for techniques that require them. Again, the doula must be cautious of over-stepping the medical line and should not outright expect nurses to behave as a second doula. It is a relationship that requires nurturing and mutual respect.
4. Your partner
If you have a partner present at your birth, a doula is absolutely not there to replace them! This is an important time for both you and your partner to begin your parenting journey together. Allowing you and your partner to be in control is key to you both building your confidence as parents.
A doula should help your partner to be the best labor support possible for you. Rather than massage your back, she can show your partner how best to massage. She can coach them in using empowering, reassuring language to help keep your spirits up. She can show you positions that your partner can be an active part in (like dancing, supported squats, dangling). Doula’s can also provide the encouragement that a partner might need during times of doubt, fear or exhaustion. A doula knows that by working together, you and your partner can strengthen your bond and start you on your way towards parenting together.