“Are doulas just for first time moms?” is a question I sometimes hear, and answer with a resounding, “NO, not at all!” You may be surprised to note that many of the expecting parents that contact me about birth doula services are having their second (or third or fourth) babies. So why are they hiring a doula, when they’ve been through labour before?
- Satisfaction. Did you know, studies show that having a doula in the majority of cases, increases a mother’s satisfaction with her birth experience1, which also can be helpful for bonding, increased breastfeeding success and a healthy state of mind in the postpartum season? While a lot of clients are repeat doula families who feel having a doula at their first birth was a game-changer, many more of the inquiries received are from parents that weren’t satisfied for a number of reasons with their first birthing experience, and are looking for ways to change things and plan for a more positive, informed and empowering journey the second time around.
- Partner Inclusion and Support. Mothers who feel like their partner had an overwhelming experience the first time, or that he missed the opportunity to take part in the birth as much as they had hoped, often seek a doula to make sure inclusion happens to a greater extent for their second birth. Whether it’s taking the stress out of “is it time to go yet?”, helping him to ask questions about an emerging situation, letting dad run to the washroom or get food (without fear that he is leaving his partner unprotected or unsupported), or simply showing him a pain management technique, having the the partner’s back so he has freedom to connect during the birth process is a big part of what doulas do.
- Flexibility For Siblings. An off-shoot of the previous point about partner support, a doula can free up the partner to organize care-giving for the older child(ren) as needed. There are so many variations that I see for this, from dad being able to duck out home to put the little to bed after baby arrives, to just being able to leave the room for a bit to make a call, or to chat with the child and grandma in the hall a few times during the labour. Many families have no options for childcare at all, and having the doula may allow the toddler to hang out during the labour and free partner to take them out of the room to care for them when needed. It’s challenging for mothers to release themselves to the birth at hand if they’re concerned about their older child’s well-being, and a doula can be just the solution she’s looking for!
- Anxiety and Stress Reduction. Every baby writes their own story; every labour is a new journey, the unknowns of which can be stressful. The informational support a doula can provide is a proven remedy for stress and pain. Additionally, just having the experienced, unbiased and continuous care of a professional doula has even been shown to be a stress-reduction technique on its own! A Swedish study on hormones concluded that the presence of a doula reduces fear and anxiety, contributing to a surge of oxytocin that increases contraction strength, but decreases pain perception2. Who doesn’t want that! Whether a mother is planning an unmedicated birth, or looking for ways to cope until the best window for their planned pain relief method, having the help only a doula provides can reduce anxiety and stress, which ultimately reduces pain and leads to better outcomes.
To the question of whether a doula is only for first-timers, I think we can agree it’s a win for any expecting parent (whether first or fourth-timer) who wants the advantage of unbiased, continuous support that increases satisfaction, knowledge, and flexibility, while reducing stress and anxiety.
Uvnas Moberg, 2014