Let's start with the basics! What does a doula do?
Offer emotional and informational support during pregnancy. This can look like helping clients gather the information they need to weigh their options and determine their own preferences for their birth or it could include encouraging conversations with the care provider to discover what options are available with that care provider or in that care setting.
Give continuous emotional, physical, and informational support during labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum period.
What does a doula not do?
Provide any clinical care, such as blood pressure monitoring, internal exams/cervical dilation checks, or diagnosis.
Make any decisions for the client, speak on behalf of the client, or give medical advice.
For a more in depth read on this topic, click here to head to that post.
Now that we have that covered, lets discuss a common misconception...that you have to be seeking an unmedicated birth to have a doula. I hear this frequently and honestly...I've not had many clients that fit this stereotype! Yes, a low risk birth tends to play out differently from the beginning. However, that isn't due to the desire of the birthing person, but more to do with complications and concerns surrounding mom and/or baby. A low risk pregnancy is more likely to not need medical interventions such as induction, medications during labor, or a cesarean. As where high risk mama's can tend to have a lot more on their plate in this area!
To be completely transparent, roughly 90% of my clients have been considered high risk. Kind of shocking, right? It was to me at first, but now it makes so much sense as to why these types of families seek me out. Lack of information, anxiety, past trauma, and inconsistent communication from a care provider are the first reasons that spring to mind. Having a doula on your support team can greatly impact if not eliminate these issues during pregnancy, labor & birth, as well as postpartum. Does the care look drastically different than a low risk? Nope, not really! The main differences that come to mind is all in the prenatal time frame. High risk mama's tend to come to me earlier in pregnancy, knowing their concerns or fears, and this allows us to build not only a great rapport but also for me to really dig deep and provide well rounded information and educational sessions to empower them through the whole process. So for a client with blood pressure concerns, this would equal less stress, lower anxiety, and a calmer mental & physical state over all. Combined with a healthy diet, gentle exercise, and good rest...that pesky blood pressure becomes easier to manage!
As a doula I strive to approach each client with the individuality they hold so dear, personalizing my care to them, not vice versa.
So you've been deemed high risk? What now? Here are some important questions to ask yourself.
Do you understand and have clarity about what in your situation puts you into a higher risk category?
How do you feel about being classified as high risk?
What options are available to you with the care provider you have now? Do you feel positive and supported with these options?
Do you desire help figuring out if other providers or other hospitals may have a different opinion or policy surrounding your circumstances?
Do you (and your partner) want the additional support - emotional, informational, and physical - that a doula can provide prenatally, during the birth, and into the postpartum period?
Answer these honestly, discuss with your partner or trusted friend, and then see what is available in your area. This may mean exploring more well rounded childbirth classes than the free ones your local hospital offers. It could mean researching a doula either in your town or who offers virtual support. Or you could feel confident with where you're at in this season, and guess what? These are all perfectly fantastic options to have!
If you are currently facing a higher risk pregnancy, please feel free to reach out! Every person, each family, deserves to be supported and to come out the other side of a birth feeling empowered and at peace with their experience. I'd be honored to help you achieve that and more!