Doula and birth coach - these terms are often used interchangeably as both provide more or less the same services. Both are trained and receive a qualification to provide physical and emotional support as well as education to the birth mother during pregnancy, labor and after birth.
Both a birth coach and a doula are there to educate the mother-to-be about what to expect during her pregnancy, labor, the delivery and once the baby has arrived in the world. The aim is to provide the mother with the knowledge she needs in order to have a safe and calm experience throughout the birthing process. The knowledge that they impart is critical to being well prepared for all eventualities.
The doula or birth coach are also integral in creating a birth plan, taking into account all the personal preferences and wishes of the mother. For example, a mother may prefer to have a home birth or favor a hospital environment where medical professionals are at the ready to assist with any issues that may arise. A mother may also choose to have natural birth or a C-section and whether she prefers to have pain relief, an epidural or spinal block.
A birth plan is essential to ensuring that all aspects of the birth as well as post natal care of mother and baby are according to the mothers wishes. The birth plan must however take into considerations any health conditions or problems that may exist with both mother and baby. For instance, complications in pregnancy may preclude a home birth or require a C-section. The doula will provide all the necessary information regarding each of the choices the mother integrates into her birth plan.
Education, especially about the labor and delivery, can be very effective at providing a smoother pregnancy and birthing process. The birth coach or doula is there to be understanding regarding the mother's emotional state of mind and ensuring that others in the room are also understanding and allow her to go through the emotions while providing a calming influence.
In this way, the birth coach facilitates communication between the mother and others taking part in the delivery or who are present for the birth. She is also integral in ensuring that the birth plan as well as the mother's wishes are followed throughout the birthing process.
Providing emotional support is probably the most important function of a doula or birth coach and dates back centuries. Not only is the mother faced with the tumult of emotions and mood swings that are a result of hormonal changes, but she is also faced with the uncertainty, anxiety, and stress regarding the pregnancy and labor as well as how to care for them baby after the delivery.
This emotional support often begins early on during the pregnancy where the doula will build a relationship with the mother-to-be and instill a sense of trust and confidence. It is very important for the mother to trust her doula completely in that she will provide her with the best information and advice as well as support her fully throughout the pregnancy. After all, a birth coach acts as an advocate for the mother to ensure that her wishes are being fulfilled when she is unable to speak for herself.
The doula fulfills the function of allaying the mother's fears and providing her with a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on. The doula will also provide the mother with techniques and strategies to remain calm and stress-free during pregnancy.
This emotional support is carried through to the labor process. The doula/birth coach will be present from the first contractions until after the delivery is complete and provide reassurance to the mother to help her remain calm.
A birth coach can provide techniques and mechanisms to physically assist the mother during labor and can be effective at providing pain relief. Rubbing her back during a contraction can help alleviate the tension and pain she is experiencing. Teaching her breathing techniques as well as reminding her of these techniques during labor can also provide assistance.
Massage by a birth coach or doula during pregnancy and labor has been found to significantly reduce pain. This is due to the fact that touch release oxytocin which is the body's natural pain killer. Apart from the fact that massage is simply very soothing for the mother.
A doula does not simply disappear after delivery but will help the new mother to bond with her baby. It is a common misconception that a mother automatically bonds with her baby after birth and bonding can take time. The mother will also benefit from assistance in learning the correct breastfeeding technique as well as some additional bathing, changing and general baby care tips.
Not all birth coaches will provide support and education throughout the pregnancy and their main focus may be on the labor and delivery rather than the entire process. On the other hand, some birth coaches may provide additional life coaching services to the mother to provide her with a more comprehensive service in order to experience the process in a positive and memorable way.
It is a matter of preference as to how much or little a mother would like someone to be involved in the entire process. These preferences should be taken into account when choosing a birth coach or doula. While it is of utmost importance that the mother is able to relate well to her person of choice, it is just as important for the doula/birth coach to know just how much input and support is necessary.
Having either a birth coach or doula present during pregnancy, labor and delivery has multiple benefits. In order to get the greatest benefit it is also important to ensure that there is no conflict regarding personal preferences, the birth plan and the mother's view on pregnancy and birth.
Your nine month journey will be a roller coaster ride. You and your partner will not have to deal with it alone!
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