What is a doula and why would you have one at your birth?

Doula: 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.

For my first birth I thought I wanted my husband to act as my Doula. We went to classes, memorized positions, and practiced massage techniques… My husband is a wonderful man, but he is not a Doula.

For my second birth, I hired a trained professional.

I had been laboring at home for about four hours, with my husband coming in and asking me, “What do you need? Can I get anything for you? What can I do to help?” But I didn’t know what to tell him.

As soon as my Doula arrived, she walked in the room and said, “Hi.” Then she placed her hands on my hips as I started contracting and it was like she magically cut the pain in half! I thought to myself, “Why was I ever powering through that without her!? I should have asked her to come earlier!”

There was no having to explain where it hurt, what position I needed to be in, or how she could help… She just stepped in and did what she is trained to do, and it was exactly what I needed. Her consistent, intuitive touch through the rest of my labor was a gift.

Beyond the gift of intuitive touch, she was also able to recognize when my energy was depleting, or my blood pressure was low, and she wafted peppermint essential oil in front of my face. It gave me just the boost I needed to get through to the next contraction. And when I started to progress further into my labor, she placed a blend called Release in front of my nose, and encouraged me to breathe. I truly feel like that helped me relax and open up in a way that I hadn’t been able to on my own.

It’s that kind of observation, intuition, and knowingness that makes a doula a great birthing partner. She is able to see where you are holding tension in your body during each contraction, and with her calming, and gentle voice she can say things like, “relax your shoulders” or “relax your jaw,” as if she’s willing it to happen. They can visually assess what you need, so they don’t have to ask, and you don’t have to think. That is their real talent-anticipating your needs, while you are navigating uncharted territory.

My doula even took the initiative to take photos and video during my labor (which we had previously talked about being something I would like to have happen.) But I never had to consciously think or say, “Could someone take pictures now?” I was just able to stay present, and focused on opening up and bringing my baby into the world. And I cherish those photos of my husband holding me up in the birthing tub, the video of my little girl taking her first breath, and me holding her in my arms for the first time.

She also stayed with me after birth- something I didn’t even realize I would want or need. She stood at my bedside after I had birthed my placenta and massaged my aching hips and lower back while my Midwife and her assistant tended to the baby. She worked out the soreness around my sacrum from the act of birthing. Her calming energy and her firm but gentle touch helped me relax from the afterbirth rush of adrenaline that had gone through my system.

Having an intuitive doula, who is great at massage, and has a generally calming/reassuring presence can make a world of difference in a birth experience. I think any woman would benefit from that trifecta during labor!


Thinking about hiring a doula for your upcoming birth? I highly recommend it!


This post was written based on my experience with my own doula, Alisha Sexton. She is a Doula (birth, bereavement, and postpartum), a Licensed Massage Therapist, birth educator, lactation consultant, and placenta encapsulationist. She is based in Sarasota, Florida. Check out her website at: https://alishasexton.com/

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