What does a doula do?
By definition, a doula is trained to assist a woman during pregnancy and childbirth and provide support for a family after a baby is born.
But there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about doulas. Some people mistakenly think a doula has the same role as a midwife, who delivers the baby.
While doulas stay with women throughout labor and delivery, they provide non-clinical tasks, such as comfort measures, massage, meditation, positioning and coping techniques, said Angela Rodrigues of Powell.
Others assume doulas only assist women in home births, not in hospitals. In fact, doulas also help clients in the hospital — whether a woman is having a natural birth, an epidural or a C-section.
“Another myth is that we sort of replace a dad’s role, and that’s totally not true,” said Rodrigues. “Our job is to create that bond and solidify the two of you more by being there. That’s really our goal.”
Rodrigues and Kylee Thormahlen are trained doulas who recently started a collective called Doulas of Wyoming. The northwest branch is based in Powell, and the goal is to bring together birth doulas from around the state and help raise awareness about doulas. The community can learn more about doulas during a “Meet the Doulas” night from 6:30-7:30 p.m. June 6 at the Powell Branch Library.
Ultimately, Rodrigues and Thormahlen hope it becomes more common for pregnant women in Wyoming to seek the support of a doula.
“Wouldn’t it be great if instead of asking, ‘Do you use a doula?’ if the question was, ‘Who is your doula?’” Thormahlen said.
Thormahlen works as an OB nurse at Powell Valley Healthcare and Cody Regional Health, and decided she also wanted to assist mothers as a doula.
As a nurse, the main focus is on a mother and baby’s physical wellbeing. As a doula, she doesn’t do any medical procedures, but focuses more on the mental/spiritual/emotional side of labor and delivery.
“I love both roles, but they are very separate, distinct roles, and each one is important,” Thormahlen said. “We need the doctor or midwife there to deliver the baby, we need the nurse who can watch the monitors and start the IVs and do whatever is needed medically to keep everyone safe, and we need the doula there to support. All of them are critical.”
“We’re all a team, in it together,” Rodrigues added.
Research shows benefits of a doula include reducing the risk of a C-section and reducing the need for anesthesia, Thormahlen said. Babies also do better in doula-assisted labors and deliveries.
Rodrigues referenced a quote from Dr. John H. Kennell, who said, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”
Rodrigues became a trained doula about five years ago.
“It’s a calling. We don’t do it for the money, that’s for sure,” she said. “It’s just something that’s placed on your heart and ... once you experience that feeling ... you feel like you want to shed that light on as many women and families as possible.”
Rodrigues has two sons who are eight years apart. She decided to work with a doula for her second child’s birth, after not having one for her first child.
She had night and day differences between the two experiences.
Doulas provide two to three prenatal in-home visits, talking about individual concerns or fears and helping with the emotional/spiritual side for both moms and dads before the birth.
Rodrigues said they’re on call two weeks before the due date and two weeks afterward.
A doula provides continuous support throughout labor and delivery, and a dad can get some rest if he needs to.
While some dads may be skeptical about doulas at first, they often become advocates of them, Rodrigues said. There’s a lot of pressure put on fathers, and a doula can help take some of that weight off, so he can “just be the husband and love his wife or partner through that experience,” Rodrigues said.
Thormahlen said one father who wasn’t initially sure about having a doula came away from the experience saying, “Oh my goodness, everyone should have a doula.”
Doulas also offer prenatal and postpartum support with home visits.
Through pregnancy and after the baby’s arrival, doulas help provide outlets for research to various questions parents may have.
“We’re never there to say, ‘I think you should …’” Rodrigues said. Instead, they provide research and talk about options.
Women can hire a doula at any point of their pregnancy.
By forming the doula collective, there will be a network of doulas who can assist each other.
“If we’re going on 36 hours [of labor], I can’t be as helpful as that mama needs,” Thormahlen said. “We can have a back-up doula so that they can feel comfortable with her coming in, so we can rest for a little bit of time and be the most helpful.”
While hiring a doula may seem like a new concept, Dr. Bob Ellis used to work with doulas at Powell Valley Hospital.
“It’s so cool that we have a rich history here. We’re just trying to revive it,” Rodrigues said.
For more information, call 307-221-5268 or 503-572-3072, email email@example.com or visit www.facebook.com/pg/doulasofwyoming.