Congratulations! You’ve interviewed several doulas and found one that’s the perfect fit for you! She’s called you up and scheduled your first prenatal visit, and now you’re wondering–what exactly does a doula do at a prenatal visit? You know your doula won’t be doing any medical tasks, like checking your blood pressure (if you want to read more information on what a doula does and does not do, check out my article here). And, you’ve probably already decided whether your doula will visit you at your home, as most doulas do, or if you will meet her or see her in an office setting. So, let’s get down to the question, what can you expect from a prenatal visit with a doula?
- She’ll listen to you. A lot. That’s right, a large part of a doula’s job is simply to listen. It’s like having a cup of tea with a good friend–a time to be heard and connect. She’ll ask you about your pregnancy, about how you are feeling about the upcoming birth, and about any feelings you might have about a previous birth. She’ll ask you if you have any fears or concerns and what you’re most excited about. She’ll want to know what kind of birth stories you are hearing from your friends and family, and how those are impacting you. You’ll talk about what helps you relax and what you find comforting when you are stressed and in pain. She’ll
talk at length with your partner too–she wants to support him as he supports you, and she wants him to feel confident and capable in his role. She really wants to get to know both of you and to build a strong relationship so that you feel comfortable with her during labor later on. She wants to hear all of your thoughts, feelings, fears, concerns, and wishes for your birth. And she will listen to you without judgement, bias, or criticism. She will validate your feelings and, much like during labor, she will reassure that it is okay to feel however you are feeling. She will help you process it all and help you explore any fears and concerns you might have. This intent, unbiased listening is the foundation of great doula support.
- She’ll offer resources. Wanting to learn more about the process of birth and all the options out there? Your doula will recommend books, evidence-based articles, and terrific childbirth educators to facilitate that. Needing a prenatal massage or a visit with a chiropractor? She’s got referrals for you! Unsure about breastfeeding? She can direct you to local lactation consultants and La Leche meetings. Basically, she’s your key to all things birthy, from books and websites to postpartum support personnel and chiropractors.
- She’ll facilitate open communication between you and your care provider. A professional doula never wants to take the place of your chosen midwife or doctor. She seeks to be a part of the birth team and to encourage the entire team to function well together. Part of that is helping you prenatally to open up important dialogues to be sure you and your provider are on the same page. She’ll want to hear about each of your appointments, and how things are going. Are there recommendations your provider is making that you aren’t sure about? She’ll help you organize your thoughts and make a list of questions to ask and provide resources so you can educate yourself about these recommendations as well. Not sure what your care provider’s position is on some of your birth wishes? She’ll encourage to create a birth plan and discuss it carefully at one of your appointments. The key to great relationship with your midwife or doctor is clear, open communication, and your doula wants to facilitate that any way she can.
- She’ll help you to know all your options and to create a birth plan that’s right for you. There are so many options in regard to prenatal care, birth, and the immediate postpartum period that it can feel overwhelming to wade through them all. Your doula will listen closely to you (there’s that listening again!) and help you understand what choices you have. She’ll help you find evidence-based information on the risks and benefits of those choices so that you have all the tools you need. Then, she will confidently support you in your choices–and if you change your mind at any time during your pregnancy or labor? No worries! She’ll support you wholeheartedly then too. Your doula believes in you! She believes that you are strong and capable of making the right decisions for you and your baby, and she knows that birth is unpredictable and plans can change. She’s on your team the whole way.
- She spend some time showing you hands on techniques you can use for pregnancy, labor, and beyond. Another big part of a doula’s job is non medical pain relief and relaxation techniques. Your doula will help you with exercises and positions you can try to relieve common pregnancy discomforts as well as teach you skills you can use during labor, particularly in the very early stages when you
are not yet ready for her to join you. Worried about a breech baby or a baby who is not yet optimally positioned for birth later in your pregnancy? She’ll teach you simple positions and techniques you can do to encourage better fetal positioning. A note: Doulas are not magicians; sometimes a breech baby does not turn, regardless of what you, your doula, chiropractor, physician, or midwife try. But they’ll all help you the very best they can. Your doula may teach you relaxation techniques, including the use of the rebozo and massage, that will help you relax now and during labor. She might demonstrate positions that you might use for labor and positions you might use for pushing as well.
It sounds like so much, doesn’t it? Rest assured, she will not cram all of these things into one appointment! Typically, you will see your doula at least twice in person prenatally, sometimes more if needed, and you will have continual phone/text/e-mail support so you can ask questions, get resources and referrals, and benefit from her emotional support all throughout your pregnancy. I hope this article has helped you get an idea of what your prenatal doula visits might be like, as well as provided a window into the myriad of ways a doula provides support throughout pregnancy.