How can your doula support you during labour?
The work of a doula is often described as providing emotional, physical and informational support to the mom and her partner during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. But what does that mean exactly in concrete terms? Why are they all important? Does every mom require all three?
Physical Labour Support
In this post I am going to delve into the different aspects of physical support which can greatly help you during your labour and birth. When you are in labour, your body is going through a lot – your uterus is contracting, your back may be aching and your lower abdomen is screaming ‘Get this baby out of here right now!’ So how can you calm the waters and relieve a lot of this intense pain? The answer:touch.
Touch is calming. The appropriate touch at the right moment, from gentle and loving hands, can calm your anxieties give you that extra boost to get through another contraction.
Touch is reassuring. It can let you know that you are not alone, that you can and will deliver your baby. Just think of a child and how a parent will rub or kiss away their pain. Once reassured they are OK, off they go!
Touch is loving. As a labouring mom, you need to be surrounded by lots of love. This creates oxytocin – appropriately called the hormone of love – enabling you to birth your baby. It is a magical and powerful hormone involved in lovemaking, fertility, contractions, breastfeeding, and bonding between you and baby. Often, women will be labouring along nicely at home only to stop all together when they get to the hospital. Why? Bye-bye oxytocin! A doula’s role, however, is to keep the oxytocin present no matter where you are.
A Doula’s Tool Bag
Doulas are well known for having many ways of helping you through the pain of childbirth. A lot of physical support involves touch, but some does not. As your doula, I may:
- Massage your shoulders, back, arms, legs, and feet.
- Perform the magical double-hip press. Be sure to ask about this!
- Apply hot and cold compresses to your back and lower abdomen.
- Place a cold cloth to your forehead.
- Move a strand of hair away from your face.
- Help you into – and out of – the bath or shower.
- Get water and/or ice chips and hold the straw to your lips.
- Walk around the hospital with you while you labour.
- Tell you a few jokes – don’t they say laughter is the best medicine?
- Hold your hand during vaginal exams or during contractions.
- Apply pressure to acupressure points which can help labour along.
- Support you while you squat during the pushing phase.
- Place a hand on your shoulder and remind you to breathe.
This list, of course, is not complete as every doula has their own set of skills and strength. And what if you do not enjoy being touched? Let me know and I’ll support you in other ways.
Prenatal and Postnatal Periods
As for physical support during pregnancy, back and shoulder rubs can help you relax while pressing acupressure points can induce labour if you’re past your due date. And during the postpartum period, isn’t a massage just what the doctor ordered to soothe your aching and tired body?