Many people think they understand the role of a doula, but others have plenty of misconceptions. The problem lies within the public’s stereotype of doulas which over-generalizes the characteristics and blinds the population to the benefits. How doulas are portrayed in the media doesn’t help the problem either. The work of doulas has a rightful place in history, but in modern society, it is still often a misunderstood profession. Debunking the typical cliché is the first step in opening a dialogue about how a labour or postpartum doula can benefit new families throughout the childbearing year and beyond. These are the most common stereotypes:
Your doula is not Kevin Costner. They are not your decision maker, nor your patient advocate. There will be no diving in front of you to save you from your choices. As much as a doula wants what you desire for your birth experience, they cannot under any circumstances, interfere with your healthcare provider’s decisions that ensure your or your baby’s health and safety. A doula may be able to slow down the pace of the room, giving you an opportunity to ask questions about your care, but a doula does not protect you from your decisions. A professional doula will help you navigate your circumstances, but cannot prevent nor guarantee an outcome.
The Fairy Godmother
A doula is not magical. They cannot appear and grant you your heart’s desire with a wave of an imaginary wand. There are no pumpkin rides or glass slippers. What a doula can do is help you identify your goals, your preferences, and your options; whether that’s in the delivery room or at home after the baby is born. A doula can leave you feeling understood, validated, and can normalize your feelings, but they cannot miraculously make your birth go faster or make your newborn sleep through the night. They help you find your comfort zone, your balance, and your empowerment to succeed. A professional doula does, however, show up when you need them and that feeling of being seen, heard, and respected, can be priceless to a family in transition.
Have you met most doulas? No patchouli. No Birkenstocks. No burning incense, beating drums, or whale songs. A doula isn’t all about non-medicated childbirth and organic parenting; rather a doula is about helping you discover what's best for you and your family. So if you want an epidural, need a caesarean, prefer to formula feed, or don’t want to co-sleep…guess what? Your choices are the highest in priority, and you call the shots! A professional doula will fully support your preferences without judgment, hidden agendas, or a guilt trip. No essential oils needed.
There is no such thing as a “doula-in-training.” The confusion seems to lie in the wording; a doula is either working towards certification or certified. Once they have taken a training however, a doula is fully qualified to provide support during your pregnancy, birth, and in the postpartum period regardless of their certification status. Yes, they must obtain a number of births or support a number of families through postpartum, but in no way does that mean that they are incompetent until certified. A professional doula is ready to partner with you and your family in offering compassionate and exceptional support right from the beginning.
No. Just no. Doulas are not educated, qualified, nor licensed to deliver your baby. It’s that simple. There are no cervical exams, fetal assessments, blood pressure checks, tracking growth charts, baby-well visits or diagnosing conditions. Just informational, physical, and emotional support. A doula is a guide, a support network, and a resource, but not a medical caregiver. So don’t ask a doula to be an obstetrician, a family physician, a pediatrician, a nurse, or a midwife. They’re not. A professional doula has absolutely nothing to do with the practice of medicine. A professional doula has absolutely everything to do with the power of connection.
There are many more different doula stereotypes, but if you believed any of the these, you’re not alone. As the profession of doula work expands, the hope is these myths and misconceptions will fade. Would you consider using a labour or postpartum doula now that you’ve had some clarification on their role? Let us know!
Loree Siermachesky is a certified labour doula, pre-certified postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known within the international doula community and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. Her original business, Special Deliveries Doula Services, won the Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in 2013 and she was nominated as a Women in Business Inspire Award recipient in 2016. She is excited to expand her service area with Elite Doula Group Inc. into all parts of southern Alberta.