Who is a Doula, and Why would I want her at my birth?

At the Acupuncture Turning Point we help many women with fertility issues.  Just as common at our clinic many moms receive prenatal treatments to decrease the likelihood of complications associated with delivery. We support women being informed about their birthing choices, and as such, we have invited a doula as our guest blogger this month.

We introduce to you Tracy Bradley -a Birth Doula, a Reiki Master, and a Placenta Specialist. Here is her blog.


Tracy Bradley, Doula

So your pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant and you’ve heard that your sister’s friend had a doula at her birth. She might be a little on the crunchy side, she might be a little on the white collar side or she might be somewhere in between. She might have had a home birth, a birth centre birth, or a hospital birth. She might have a partner, she might not. She might have chosen an all natural birth, or she might have chosen to have an epidural; there’s a lot in the word choice, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Some common questions are: What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife? What exactly does a doula do? Will my doctor be OK with my having a doula? What’s the cost involved in having a doula? How do I find one? What questions do I ask in the interview with a doula?

We can start with the most common question first. What is the difference between a doula and a midwife? My answer to this is that a doula takes care of the mother and her partner’s physical and emotional needs in the months leading up to the birth, during the birth and into the postpartum time. A midwife is a registered medical professional who takes care of all of the clinical needs of the mom and baby, ensuring all is on the right track, and everyone’s healthy. They monitor the mom and the baby throughout the pregnancy, birthing and post partum period. A midwife will run tests, preform physical examinations, and consult with an obstetrician if a medical complication arises. A midwife in Edmonton can take care of your needs in home, at a birthing centre or in the hospital where they have admitting privileges. A doula and a midwife are an amazing and complementary support team for you.

The scope of practice for a doula is one of offering help, advice and resources on comfort measures such as breathing, positional changes, relaxation, movement, massage, reiki, hydrotherapy and even hypnotherapy. A doula performs no clinical tasks, diagnosis, nor does she make decisions in any way for the birthing woman. She works in homes, birthing centres and in hospitals. If one has a question about vitamins, supplements or herbals, they’d be asked to confirm with her primary caregiver (doctor or midwife) that it’s OK. She adheres to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations ensuring the family’s privacy is respected. The doula is an intuitive member of this team. She’s reading the cues of the parents, asking questions, engaging trust and sharing knowledge. She ensures you have confidence in communicating your wishes, and gaining information from your health care provider.

She works with you prenatally to assist in education and with preparation of your birthing preferences. She is a guide for resources in pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding and postpartum for everything from acupuncture, emotional support, evidence-based research on common birth and pregnancy practices and more. She’s like an encyclopedia, and if you find a question she doesn’t have an answer to, you can be darned sure that she will find some great information for you. Often a doula will provide information from different perspectives so that one can make a choice from data that is not biased. Informed choice. If you don’t know your choices in birthing, you don’t have any. She’ll have great resources to childbirth education classes, if she doesn’t teach them herself.

A doula goes ‘on-call’ for you for your birth month, because lets face it, only 3% of babies are born on their ‘due date’. She often works with a team of doulas to ensure that you have the support you need in your birthing time if she cannot be there due to illness or other circumstances. When your birthing begins, she is continuous support for you in an unfamiliar time and place. Nurses change shifts, Dr’s work on call and may not be there for your birth, and partners love support. A doula is there for you 100% of the time for your birth. She is an anchor for you who knows and trusts the process. She works with you and your partner, to show you how together you are an amazing birthing team, and giving confidence to the birth partner. Doulas and partners work great together, and their role is enhanced as they learn supporting techniques and is supported as they use them.

Choices in birth are supported through education and experience. A birthing family learns the BRAIN acronym to navigate birth choices:

B: Benefits—What are the benefits of doing this procedure?
R: Risks—What are the risks involved?
A: Alternatives—Are there any alternatives?
I: Intuition—What is my gut feeling? Does this procedure make sense?
N: Nothing—What would happen if we did nothing or waited a while?
They are educated on different procedures at the different birthing places, which aids in making informed decisions, and relevant birth preferences.

Most professional doulas cost between $700-$1200. There are doulas who are working on certifications who sometimes charge less. This typically includes: a consultation where you meet to see if you are a good fit, two prenatal visits of 1-2 hours each, your birthing time which can be hours or days, and a post partum visit or two. There are many complementary additional services offered by doulas such as breastfeeding support, acupuncture, massage, reiki, placenta encapsulation, babywearing training and much much more. Some also work exclusively as post partum support (which is a whole other blog post!) Many also offer childbirth education classes ranging from Hypnobabies to Sacred Pregnancy.

Where do you find a doula? There is a local Doula Association which links to certified doulas who chose to join the association (http://edmontondoula.org/). There are many doulas who chose not to certify as well, or be a member of the Doula Associaion of Edmonton. All doulas are generally in a state of continuous learning with certifying organizations requiring continuous education to remain certified. There are many groups, collectives and resources.

Doula Match is a great resource for finding a doula as you can read client reviews and preview details on a doula’s experience. http://doulamatch.net/profile/9387/tracy-bradley.

DONA (Doulas of North America), a certifying organization, has a great page on interviewing doulas here: http://www.dona.org/mothers/how_to_hire_a_doula.

To contact Tracy Bradley:

(780) 952-3699
Grow Centre
10516 – 82 Avenue (Basement)
Edmonton, AB T6C 2A4