We hear so much talk about how important it is to practice self-care.
But what do you see when I say self-care? If you take one scroll down social media or Google it, you’d likely get the idea that self-care is all about the massages, baths, lotions, and candles. But really, that stuff is self-soothing. And self-soothing is important, but self-care is so much more than just doing the things that soothe us.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, self care is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”
With this definition, if you know anything about doulas at all, you can easily see how hiring a doula at any point in time for your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum is an act of self-care. As a colleague pointed out, it’s actually a long-term act of self-care. No matter when you are hiring a doula to support you, when you hire a doula you are protecting your own well-being and happiness. You are protecting your current and future health. The goal of any doula is to support you in a way that leaves you feeling supported, safe, and happy with the way your reproductive journey goes.
Hiring a Doula as an Act of Self Care
But not everyone knows what a doula is and how a doula can help you in your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey. And if you don’t know what a doula is, how can you use a doula as an act of self-care?
What is a Doula?
There are doulas for every point of your reproductive journey – no matter the outcome of your birth. From fertility to birth to postpartum to loss, there is a doula out there that can help support and guide you on your journey. Many doulas are Full Spectrum Doulas (which means they can support you at any point), and some have specialized. Not all doulas have formal training, but all doulas do have experience and knowledge in the areas they are supporting families.
Not everyone has an easy time getting pregnant – and not all of us really understand how fertility works. Sadly, our education on fertility focuses mostly on ways to avoid pregnancy rather than learning how our bodies actually work. Fertility doulas provide preconception support to people as they go about their journey to getting pregnant. Particularly for those who require medical fertility help, fertility doulas can be a great source of educational and emotional support. Some fertility doulas will even attend fertility appointments with you if you need that physical support.
Evidence is now showing that having continuous birth support decreases Caesarean risk, increases the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal birth, decreases the need for pain relief meds, shortens labour, and results in more folks being satisfied with their birth. Yes, really. And the risk Caesarean is reduced even further when that continuous birth support is a doula. (Check out www.ebbirth.com for more information on this.) Birth doulas provide continuous support in labour – both physical and emotional. They also provide informational support as needed throughout pregnancy and labour. Birth doulas not only support the birthgiver, they also support your partner!
So many people focus on the birth, but birth is one day. Postpartum is forever after. Once you birth that baby, you are wholly responsible for that little human being. And that can be scary! A postpartum doula comes into your home and helps make the transition into a parent easier. A postpartum doula provides non-biased emotional, physical, and educational support during a time when you really need it. When you feel supported in the postpartum, you have a more positive experience.
Loss and Bereavement Doulas
Sadly, not every pregnancy ends happily. Loss and bereavement doulas are there to help guide you through those hard days. Whether you need physical, emotional, or informational support, you can be sure that a loss and bereavement doula will help.
Doulas and Self Care
As we discussed already, self-care means anticipating your needs, and doing what you need to meet those needs. Hiring a doula is doing exactly that. When you hire a doula, you are investing in the current and future health of both you and your family. You are anticipating your needs and protecting your health and happiness.
Why not just ask friends and family to fill this role in your reproductive journey? Well, you sure can. In fact, please do! Doulas are not meant to replace your friends and family. But also, please know that your friends and family love you dearly and that sometimes blinds them to the ways that you need support. A doula works with your family and friends to give you the support you need when you need it. A doula knows fertility, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum – your family knows you. It’s the perfect team.
So, if you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, consider hiring a doula. This investment could be one of the biggest acts of self-care in your pregnancy.
Sarah Wallace is the owner of Nurtured Postpartum. She is a Full Spectrum Doula (with a focus on prenatal and postpartum support) and Childbirth Educator. She believes in providing intuitive, evidence-based support for the whole family. If you need her, you’ll find her either drinking coffee, working in her garden, or playing with her 4 children.Whether you’re