Doula Interview with Labor of Love Birth Services, LLC
In honor of World Doula Week 2019, we decided to get the inside scoop from a local doula, Ashley White of Labor of Love Birth Services, LLC. There are still many people who have not heard of a doula before, who aren’t exactly sure what services a doula can (or cannot) provide, or are unsure if a doula is worth the investment. Below, Ashley unpacks all these questions and more!
Before we jump into the ins and outs of being a doula, let’s first introduce Ashley, the doula behind Labor of Love Birth Services, LLC.
Ashley is the mother of three boys with baby boy number four due to arrive this spring. Before she became a mother, she was already passionate about birth and had spent years attending births of close friends and family members. It wasn’t until she met her husband and became a mother herself that she decided to take this love and knowledge of birth further, becoming a doula and starting her own business. During Ashley’s first pregnancy, her midwife was also trained as a doula. It was her skills as a midwife and doula, as well as her compassion and knowledge of labor positioning techniques, that kept Ashley from having a cesarean. Ashley was exhausted from labor and the room was being prepped to carry her to surgery when her midwife came in with the miraculous peanut ball. Before heading to surgery, Ashley’s midwife asked her if she wanted to try a different position first. She propped Ashley’s leg up on the ball and all of a sudden Ashley wasn’t stalled at 8 cm anymore... her baby was being born! This was her, “I want to help women in this way” moment.
Ashley continued to attend births, but due to expanding her own family, she put her business ownership goals on hold until 2018. Ashley completed workshops and training through both DONA International and Still Birthday (as a bereaved mother, she wanted to have certification for supporting birth in any trimester) and has since served numerous families through both birth and the postpartum period here in the CSRA. Ashley still can’t believe this is her job! She loves every part of being a doula and knows that this is her true calling for life. Stay tuned as there are many things coming soon to Ashley's business, including certifications for lactation and childbirth education, as well as being an authorized peanut ball trainer.
What is a doula?
A doula, according to DONA International’s definition, is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” Many people think that the doula acts as a midwife and, while the two complement each other, they are not the same. Doulas work with expectant families throughout their pregnancy to help educate them about options for their birth so that they can make informed decisions for their desired birth, whatever that may look like for that family. Many of us also assist with creating birth plans, baby registries, exercise recommendations to progress labor and what essentials you really need to pack for your hospital bag.
What care can a doula provide for a laboring mother and her partner?
A doula is trained to provide many different comfort measures including massage and counterpressure. Doulas also have a strong background in the physiological process of birth, so they can offer a unique perspective in helping identify what is normal during birth and can provide suggestions for alternative positions at various stages to help labor progress. Many partners benefit from having a doula! It is a common misconception that a doula takes the place of a partner, or that a doula isn’t needed if a partner is trained how to help the mother through a childbirth class. A doula provides continuous support throughout the labor which allows the partner a chance to take care of things during the labor (keeping family informed, taking care of other siblings, caring for pets, running last minute errands for mom, grabbing dinner etc) knowing that mom is still being cared for and is not left alone. Many partners also find comfort in having someone there to make suggestions for what hands on support they can offer and when to offer it. Birth is full of emotions and sometimes even the most well informed parents “forget” what they learned in the moments of labor where emotions are high.
What is not within the scope of practice for a doula? (Or what can’t a doula do?)
It is very important that a doula practice within her/his scope. Certified doulas are held to this standard by their certifying agency which is one main reason many families choose to employ a doula with an official certification. Doulas are not medical providers and, as a result, are unable perform any type of delivery, cervical exam, blood pressure monitoring, fetal heart tones, etc. Most of us are trained in breastfeeding and can assist with the initial feedings,as well as help determine when a referral to lactation is necessary; however, without specific certifications, doulas are not permitted to diagnose or treat lactation issues.
What are the benefits of having a doula?
There have been numerous scientific studies outlining the benefits of having a doula. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released the following stance on doulas in labor in 2017: “Published data indicate that one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes is the continuous presence of support personnel, such as a doula. Given that there are no associated measurable harms, this resource is probably underutilized.” In 2017, Bohren et al. published an updated Cochrane review on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth. The study showed that overall, women who received continuous support during labor were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births, less likely to use any pain medication including epidurals, less likely to have negative feelings surrounding childbirth, less likely to have a vacuum or forceps-assisted birth, and less likely to have a cesarean. The studies also showed that their labors were shorter by approximately 40 minutes, and their newborns were less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth. Additionally, there is the benefit of having a better overall experience and a more positive psychological experience from feeling that the laboring mothers were respected and informed in every part of the process. Birth is more than healthy mom, healthy baby. Moms deserve a positive birthing experience as they will remember their child(ren)’s birth(s) for a lifetime.
I hired a doula. Do I still need a childbirth class?
Yes! Many doulas even require first time parents to take a childbirth education class! While doulas are very knowledgeable about birth, parents still benefit from a comprehensive childbirth education. When the birthing mother or couple are well educated about birth, the doula can help the couple work through their birthing priorities and learn skills like comfort measures rather than spending all their time together on birth education alone. Be sure to interview several doulas prior to choosing one, including questions about their credentials and birth philosophy if these are important to you. Lastly, many doulas are now offering their own childbirth education courses in addition to doula services, and some of us partner with childbirth educators to offer packaged deals. This past year, we have proudly partnered with Empowered Birth to offer an exclusive deal on bundling our services. You can contact either of us for more information on this great deal!
But aren’t doulas expensive?
When we think about the amount of time and money we spend investing and planning for our wedding compared to planning for the birth of our child, suddenly a doula doesn’t seem like a crazy “additional” expense. Some insurance companies are now offering reimbursement for doula services, and the majority of doulas will offer a payment plan for families that need one. In addition, some doulas work on a sliding scale and may offer discounts for members of the military or low-income families. Be sure that you inquire with each individual doula if price is holding you back from hiring one.
Why did you decide to become a doula?
I decided to become a doula out of my love for childbirth and desire to empower women to feel confident in their births and journey to motherhood. I was thankful to have the support of an amazing midwife, trained as a doula, for the birth of my first son, but saw firsthand from attending births over the years numerous mothers who were not supported or respected during their deliveries. It is my personal mission to educate as many women as possible on the benefits of hiring a doula and to do what is within my power to make a doula available for every woman that wants one.
The loss of my second son’s twin brother led me to pursuing certification in bereavement work as I personally experienced the lack of resources and support for grieving families. I lead the CSRA Infant and Pregnancy Loss Support Group in hopes of improving support in our community and providing resources for families in our area to heal.
What is your favorite part about being a doula?
My favorite part of being a doula is the confidence that I see instilled in the many mothers that I work with. I love watching the mother’s (and their partner’s) knowledge grow throughout their pregnancy and seeing them transition into motherhood feeling confident and prepared. It is the best feeling in the world. I am fortunate in that many of my clients go on to become friends. As a result, they feel comfortable months down the road reaching out when they need support or guidance on things relating to their baby. This is more than a job for me, it is my true calling and my passion. I strive to run my business this way, with a willingness to truly serve the mother and her family.
For more information on the services Labor of Love Birth Services, LLC provides, you can visit her website or contact Ashley at email@example.com.
Image at the very top of the page by Maiden Musgrove Photography