Updated: Sep 4
When aspiring doulas come on my doula course, one of their main concerns is how they will be perceived by midwives and other medical staff when they work as birth doulas. I can honestly say, that in the years that I’ve been a birth doula, I have never had any problems with the midwives that I have come into contact with.
To be quite frank, we are all aiming towards the same goal, for this woman and her family to have a positive birth experience, and by working together, we hope to achieve this. I do have five tips for doulas though, that I would like to share with you and I hope you will find them helpful.
#1. When I arrive at the hospital with a client in labour, I tend to take a step back as I appreciate that the midwife who will be assigned to my client is usually keen to get to know them and their partner a bit. I smile a lot and contribute to the discussion only when I feel it would be appropriate or when asked to by my client. I tend to make very short notes in a notepad while we’re at home so I can help with some of the information, such as frequency of contractions, last time my client emptied their bladder and if the waters have gone and what time that happened.
#2. When I get a chance, I will introduce myself to the midwife and explain that I’m there to support my client and not to interfere with what they are doing. If I’ve been to this hospital before, I might mention a midwife’s name that I’ve worked with before or find something else we might have in common.
#3. If during labour and birth, there are procedures that my client finds painful. I will always keep an eye on their face to see how they are feeling. If their face shows pain, I will say to them: “That looks like it’s painful!” The midwife or doctor who is carrying out the procedure will usually be alerted and ask my client if it is painful, giving them a chance to say ‘yes’. It would be very rare for me to directly address a midwife or doctor to tell them to stop. I always say to my client's partner that if there is anything that they see which they feel should be stopped, they should speak out. I feel it is more appropriate coming from the partner than from the doula, and if a doula’s role is to empower couples, then we should not speak on their behalf. That’s taking their voice away in my view.
#4. During labour and birth, there are little things that you can do to be helpful to the midwife. For example, every time they listens in to the baby with a doppler, they will be putting gel on your client’s belly. You can get some tissues ready to put on the bed next to the midwife as they will use these afterward to wipe off the gel. It’s just a little thing but shows you know what is going to happen and that you can be useful. If they need anything, offer to get it for them or to go and find help if they need it.
#5. When the baby has been born and my client and their partner are bonding, I usually help tidy up the room a bit. This is the only time that I will put a pair of gloves on, picking up soiled inco pads (disposable absorbable pads) and other bits and pieces to put in the bin. You don’t have to do this of course, but I realise I’m representing all doulas so want to make it easier for my colleagues when they come to this hospital.
So, these are just a few things to consider but the biggest thing you can bring to a birth is a big warm oxytocin-filled smile!