Friday, November 13, 2009

Postpartum Doula FAQ

. . . Or, "The Best Baby Shower Gift of All Time".

I put these two documents together last weekend for a health expo, the first part giving general info about postpartum doulas, and the second getting into some more FAQ detail, and thought I might as well share it here! It still needs some tweaking, and I'll be jazzing it up with a logo and some coherent color schemes and all, but I think the content is decent. Feedback?


What IS a Doula?

From Doulas Organization of North America (DONA): “The word ‘doula’ comes from the ancient Greek meaning ‘a woman who serves’ and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.”

So what exactly is a Postpartum Doula?

She is a specially trained woman who comes to the home of a new mother and provides evidence-based educational, emotional, and physical support after birth. This allows the new mom to rest and bond with her new baby during her much-deserved “babymoon”, and helps the whole family transition into their new roles during the first three months of life, sometimes referred to as the “fourth trimester”.

What can a Postpartum Doula do for our family?

*Basic breastfeeding support
* Instruction in newborn care, such as bathing, diapering, babywearing, and infant soothing
* Teaches coping skills for both parents
* Aids in mom’s physical recovery from birth
* Meal preparation
* Household organization and light housekeeping
* Errands such as grocery shopping
* Infant and sibling care
* Emotional support and companionshipInformation and professional referrals

Why should we hire a Postpartum Doula?

The postpartum period is a time of recovery and transition for the new mom. Surrounding her with emotional support, attending to her physical needs, and caring for her home and family allows her time and space to rest and recover from the birth, learn to feed her new baby, and smoothly transition into her new role with genuine self-sufficiency.

The bottom line: the presence of a postpartum doula has been shown to reduce the incidence of postpartum depression, increase the development of successful breastfeeding relationships and enhance ALL relationships in the family as they welcome their newest member.


Postpartum Doula FAQ

For how long does a mother usually hire a postpartum doula?

This depends on the needs of the family. A postpartum doula is typically engaged from between 2-6 weeks, starting as soon as possible after birth (easiest if arranged ahead of time), but this care can extend through the first three months - the “4th trimester”.

It’s not a test of competence or strength to be able to "do it all by yourself." New moms were not meant to be alone during the postpartum period. Much attention is paid in our culture to prenatal care, and to birth itself, but postpartum care is lacking in many form. Many new mothers feel overwhelmed and isolated in the first few months of motherhood, even if they do have family nearby - and especially if they don’t.

It’s important to gather support for this significant period in your life so that your newborn can be welcomed into an environment where the mother is calm, as well-rested as possible, and supported.

When do we arrange for this service?

Meeting your postpartum doula and planning for care ideally happens prenatally. This gives mom and the doula plenty of time to talk about goals and expectations, and discuss scheduling. When you first make contact, you’ll be given an intake form to fill out at your leisure, which will be reviewed at your consultation, which is free of charge. Of course, postpartum doula care can absolutely still be arranged after the birth, but scheduling may be a bit more challenging, and may miss out on the first few critical days and weeks, when help is most needed and effective, especially regarding breastfeeding support.

The best case scenario is where mom receives a gift certificate for this at her baby shower, and she sets up a plan and gets to know this new support person in advance of the blessed event, secure in the knowledge that this extra support will be awaiting her!

How long does a postpartum doula spend with a new mom each day?

Again, this depends upon the needs of the mother. Many women schedule a four-hour visit 3 to 5 times per week. Some doulas are able to do longer shifts with enough advance notice. A few also do overnight shifts.

My husband has two weeks of paternity leave. With his support, wouldn’t a
postpartum doula be unnecessary?

Don’t underestimate the impact of sleep deprivation on both parents, nor the learning curve for both father and mother. Having an extra set of experienced hands to reassure, teach, and support can make all the difference in the transition that the whole family is making. This is particularly true for first-time parents, though families with older children also need the extra help in different ways – see below.

My mother and mother-in-law (or other family) are coming to help out for the first 2 weeks. Won’t they cancel out postpartum doula care?

Care from friends and family is incredibly valuable. Feeling connected to your family at this time in a new mom’s life is wonderful. There’s no “substitute” for it. Doula care can still enhance this time for the entire family, helping everyone to adjust to their new roles, and also offers evidence-based information to the new mom, something which some family members may not always have. Care from friends and family tends to peak within the early weeks, with lots of visits and casseroles, and then dies down, while mom may still need just as much help. Doula visits can then be scheduled more frequently to make up for the difference.

What if this is not my first baby? I already know how to breastfeed and care
for a newborn--why would I need a postpartum doula?

The needs of a first-time mom are different than those of a mom with an older child or children, but postpartum support can still be vital. In fact, many members of her own support system may think exactly what was posed in the question: She’s done this before; she won’t need as much help this time. On the contrary, mom may find herself in need of more support than ever, learning to balance the needs of her other children with those of the new baby.

Additionally, mothers who had an easy time breastfeeding their first baby may still encounter some challenges with subsequent children, and mothers with older kids can still be susceptible to postpartum mood disorders. All of the above can be eased by a postpartum doula.

This is the perfect baby shower gift for a family with existing children, as many of the “big ticket” items like car seats and breast pumps and high chairs have already likely been purchased with previous babies, and many clothing items and the like will be hand-me-downs.

None of my friends ever had a postpartum doula—so why would I need one?

Chances are, the reason they didn’t have one is that they simply didn’t realize this type of support is available. Ask your friends who have had a baby if they would have liked to have had the kind of help postpartum doula offers. Try asking them. They’re likely to tell you exactly why you would want one!

What do you offer for multiple births?

For reasons both obvious and subtle, the transition into motherhood can be even more challenging for a family bringing multiples into their lives. On top of the usual education, emotional and physical and support (all doubly needed now), the postpartum doula can help the new mom discover strategies to make her life easier with her new little ones, particularly in the realm of household organization. The doula can also help the new parents find resources especially for parents of multiples.

We have not budgeted for this expense--how could we justify it?

The presence of quality postpartum support can make a huge impact on a mother's physical recovery, emotional state, and success with breastfeeding. Getting the right start can be truly priceless. Another doula says: “The best response to this question was one I heard from a set of grandparents who were paying for a postpartum doula for their daughter: ‘We put aside money for our child's college education years in advance--but is not this postpartum period, and the experience the child has in these first months, just as important?’”

Family and friends who want to help, but are unable to offer much if any postpartum support themselves, are often very grateful for the chance to hire a doula to go in their place. It should be noted here: a gift certificate for a postpartum doula is one of the best baby shower gifts of all time!

Also, be sure to submit to your insurance. Some insurance plans will cover part or even all of postpartum doula services. Speaking of:

Does insurance cover the services of a postpartum doula?

Many insurance plans will reimburse for some or all postpartum doula services. We can provide sample letters of authorization from your doctor or midwife to help in this process.

Sources: DONA International, Postpartum Doula Services of Northern Virginia


Oh, and I finally decided on a business name. It is FAR FROM original, but in the area I'm currently living, I needed something that would clue people in immediately as to what's being provided, and inspire them to look further into it, as well as something that could also cover labor support eventually. So I went with:

Postpartum support at home for mom, baby, and the whole family.

Like I said, NOT ORIGINAL, but it gets the message across. I can also tweak the tagline to include labor support once I'm ready to start attending births. Someday . . . *sigh*

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