A Doula is a trained professional who has knowledge and expertise in regards pregnancy, childbirth, the postpartum period recovery and newborn care.
She is a well of information and keeps up to date with the latest research and information.
Doulas offer an essential service to future and new parents with non-judgmental support, guidance, advice and information, whenever you need it.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many doulas began offering a virtual service for families, in order to maintain a link with their clients and offer much needed comfort, compassion and up-to-date information during an exceptionally unusual time in history!
Virtual support has great value during a pandemic, but as it turns out, not only then!
Here are 10 reasons why hiring a virtual Doula is a great idea!
1- Doulas know how to access the information you need and want
When it comes to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting, there are a lot of sources of information on the internet, in information leaflets and from diverse professionals. There is a lot of good information, but it can get lost in the middle of opinions and misinformation. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and confused by the amount of information we receive during pregnancy and to have a difficult time making decisions.
What foods should I avoid while pregnant? What vitamins do I need? Do I really want the epidural like my neighbour told me? Is breastfeeding the best option for me? Should I use cloth nappies?
It is natural to want to look at all the options available and to want to make the very best decisions for you, your baby and your family, but it can also all get a little too much!
During a consultation with your Doula, you can discuss the information you already have and ask your doula for any information you might be missing or to explain in detail some options you might be aware of but haven’t come to understand quite yet. Your Doula is proficient in researching evidence-based information. She knows where to look for reliable sources and trustworthy information.
And that’s not all! Your Doula has excellent listening skills. She will listen to you and help you figure out what options will suit you and your family best! She is neutral in the matter of what kind of decisions you should/could/would make and is therefore entirely dedicated to guiding you, until you find the solution and answer that will work best for you.
Were you told you will “need to be induced”? What reasons were given to you? What are the alternatives? What is likely to happen if you refuse to be induced? While you are having this conversation with your Doula, you are getting the tools you need to navigate your next appointment with your health care professional. This is not about refusing the medical advice you have been given, or giving your health care provider a hard time, far from it! It is about giving you the confidence and knowledge to ask relevant questions and discuss all aspects of your care and, ultimately, giving you the power you need to navigate your pregnancy and your own experience of child-birth and early parenting.
2- Your Doula can do a lot of research for you and sieve through all of the information out there
As a Postpartum Doula, I have great, lengthy conversations with my clients. They often have specific topics they want to discuss, questions they haven’t explored yet, things that confuse them.
As I listen to their questions and concerns, sometimes I have a clear picture of what the answer might be or have elements of information. Sometimes however, I do not have the answer that is exactly appropriate for this family’s specific needs.
For example, when a new mum is finding it difficult to breastfeed, there may be many reasons for her troubles: baby is tongue-tied, mum has inverted nipples, the baby’s latch needs to be worked on, mum lacks confidence, etc.
For any amount of concerns and for each specific reason why there is a concern, there are a variety of appropriate responses! There is never such a thing as one size fits all when it comes to a family’s experience of pregnancy, childbirth or early parenting.
When I first built experience as a virtual doula during the Lockdown in 2020, I quickly realised that accurate research and providing up-to-date information to families was crucial. Sometimes, the evidence changes and as researchers find out new facts about a specific topic, the information changes. In the exceptional circumstances of the Corona Virus lockdown, the information and facts changed on a daily basis, so it became even more essential that I knew where to find reliable information and pass this on in a timely manner to my clients.
Whether it is a particular Maternity Hospital’s policy or the latest information there is on birthing twins vaginally, I can spend hours of my time reading books and articles online on a wide variety of topics. As I research a specific topic, I cross reference sources, check and double check each fact, I compile the information in a comprehensive and clear manner and I always offer a wide range of answers and solutions for the family to choose from.
This invaluable time I spend, assists my clients in an irreplaceable manner by finding out clear and practical information for their specific needs while saving them precious time and energy they often do not have.
3- Doulas will offer non-judgmental emotional support and validate your feelings
Sometimes, all you need is someone to talk to and who will simply listen to you, without voicing their opinion, without sharing their feelings back to you. Sometimes, all you need is to vent, to cry, to say the things you are afraid of saying to anyone. You may have scary thoughts, you may have anxieties and fears that you are too self-conscious or afraid of to talk about for fear of negative feedback, guilt or wondering if you will be judged.
Your doula is a 100% non-judgmental and supportive professional. She is there for you and you only. She will listen to what you have to say: the good, the bad and the ugly and she won’t judge you for it. She will validate those feelings and remind you that you are not alone and that what you are feeling, and thinking has been felt and thought by others too. Your doula has this ability to make you feel loved and cared for, no matter what!
This is a skill to be valued. So often, women keep it all in for fear of being mis-understood and reprimanded and just go on feeling guilty and anxious about those intrusive feelings.
It really feels amazing to share what is going on deep down and feel validated, you should try it!
4- Not everyone wants a doula present at their birth or in their home after the birth of their baby
Even in regular times, some families decide against hiring a birth or postpartum doula because they want to protect their private space and intimacy during childbirth and the postpartum period.
Over the past couple of years, I have had numerous and lengthy conversations with soon-to-be mums and their partners in regards their wishes and needs. They often wonder what the best course of action is for them, as a family unit. Sometimes, some regular guidance and advice and someone to turn to with their questions is all they may need, and other times, the physical presence and active support in the birthing room and in the weeks following the birth of their baby is required.
Likewise, some families feel that a Birth Doula is an essential part of their birth experience, and for others the presence of a Postpartum Doula is really what they wish for and need.
Each family have their specific needs and wants and therefore doulas have the possibility to offer a wide range of services to adjust to those needs.
Hiring a Virtual Doula in the early stages of your pregnancy is a great way of getting support, guidance and information whenever you need it and also have access to a dependable and professional source of answers to all your questions. As you move along in your pregnancy towards the birth of your baby(ies) and the postpartum period, you will build a strong rapport with your Doula who will in turn get to know you and learn what approaches and styles work best for you, what information you want to receive, how much and how often you like making contact and receiving support.
This option may really be the best of both worlds in terms of receiving evidence based and personalised support, whilst protecting your family’s space during a very sensitive and vulnerable phase in your life.
5- “On-Call support” literally speaking!
No need to plan appointments weeks ahead of time or think about whether you need her most in the morning or evening time once you are home after the birth. One phone call, one text, one e-mail, this is all it takes to make contact with your Virtual Doula. This option offers the ultimate flexibility for you and access to ‘on demand’ support, guidance and information.
Your Doula is used to being on-call, she plans her life around her clients’ due dates and is used to organising her shifts patterns to suit your needs as best she can. She organises childcare and cancels personal plans to attend a birth, she has a back-up to her back-up when she needs the children collected from school, she can organise a play date at the drop of a hat to be able to do a much needed home visit when her postpartum client is in dire need of company. Your Doula is a master organiser of flexible plans!
If you decide to hire your Doula for a virtual service, you will be able to make the most of these exceptional organisational skills. You choose exactly when to make contact, what information you need, when you feel you need support and guidance the most.
As your Virtual Doula is working from home, she will be able to plan her call with you, set aside some research and networking time throughout her day and send you a thorough and concise response within hours of your original request.
The time she doesn’t spend commuting or organising childcare is extra time she spends on research for you and your family. Your virtual doula may be even more available at a distance than coming on shifts or for appointments in your home.
Your virtual Doula is On Demand, flexible, knowledgeable and non-intrusive, the fundamental source of information and support you need with minimum effort and planning on your part.
6- Compassion and connection, at a distance
Your Virtual Doula is a real person!
She may be local to you, you may have met her in person, you know who she is. Your professional Doula shows compassion, empathy and care whenever you make contact with her. She takes the time to listen to you, she validates your feelings.
When you receive a reply from your Virtual Doula, you can feel the love and attention and time she has put in researching the information you asked her for. She very possibly went beyond what you asked of her and as you read through her e-mail, you feel warm and loved.
Your Virtual Doula is most definitely not a robot!
During the health crises of early 2020, there was (as I am writing this: there is) no option of receiving home visits and to have close contact with your doula. Birth Doulas were not allowed in the birthing room and Postpartum Doulas were not offering their regular at-home support. Consequently, we adapted to virtual support, and discovered that compassion and connection can and will happen even with distance.
At first, I was not sure how I would be able to offer a service at all. When the schools closed down in March 2020 and I knew I would have to stay at home with my children, I knew I wouldn’t be able to visit my postpartum clients as I had all along. It felt alien and cold and ‘distant’ to continue in my role over the phone!
However, I quickly realised there was value in remotely working with my clients. They could talk to me, I could listen to their concerns and fears and hopes, I could still guide them through the unknown and offer to find out everything they needed to know while encouraging them to look after themselves and make the most of the situation they were in.
As the weeks went by, I contacted former clients to check up on them and received messages and phone calls from pregnant women and new mothers.
It became obvious to me that the service I normally offer was even more essential than before in these times of social distancing and isolation and, that the skills and strengths I had developed over the years were going to become an essential part of simply being there for the families that would need support.
Doulas “hold the space” for families. The are simply there for them, listening, empathising, show compassion, never mind the distance.
7- Support for partners and siblings
It is an assumption to think that Doulas only support mothers. It is however true that Doulas also offer support to partners, siblings, and sometimes to the extended family.
When working virtually with a Doula, it is generally the new mother who makes contact and takes the lead for the majority of the communication, however, the support extends to all the family.
One reason why a family may not want to hire a Doula, whether it is for the birth or the postpartum period, is sometimes because the mother’s partner is anxious or worried that he will not find his place during this time or not be able to fully fulfil his role, due to the Doula’s presence. This is typically not the case though, as partners and doulas do team up really well and complement each other in their supporting individual role to the birthing mother.
Besides, your family’s Doula offers partners the support and coaching they need and really build up their confidence in the process.
During the postpartum period, your Doula will offer at-home support for the whole family providing guidance and advice for the care of your new-born, adaptation of the siblings after the arrival of the new baby and allowing both parents to rest and self-care, as well as answering the many questions all family members may have.
If you feel you would like to make the most of all the skills and knowledge a doula can provide but do not wish to have your doula come to your home or physically attend your birth, then hiring a Virtual Doula is a great alternative. Both partners can contact their doula of choice, ask all the questions they need answers to, benefit from support, guidance, experience and coaching, whilst keeping their personal space intact.
In regards siblings’ adaptation to the new arrival.
In my experience as a Postpartum Doula, I generally see older children in the household get excited and be very intrigued by my presence. I love children, and seeing them reacting to the new arrival, to the changes in family dynamics and guiding them and helping them out through this, is a part of my job that I truly love!
Children have an amazingly astute sense of observation. Once the Doula enters the household, they quickly notice what she does and how she evolves in their space, and in turn will figure out ways they can use this to their advantage.
Very often, young children will either interact directly with the family’s Doula and want her to play with them, set up activities or participate in her tasks by offering to help her; or, they will indirectly use the Doula in order to spend more time with mum or dad by getting her to look after their new sibling.
On rare occasions, it is more difficult for the young children to adapt to the Doula entering their space and, on this instance, receiving the support remotely may be better for the family.
If you decide to hire a Virtual Doula, this interaction will be very limited, however you will be able to receive advice and support in regards sibling adaptation, and your Doula will have many techniques and tools she will be able to share with you to support your children during this important phase in their family’s life.
8- Support and guidance with birth plan and postpartum plan
Do you know what a birth plan is? Have you been told it is an essential when you are going to have a baby? Have you been told it is a complete waste of time and that no one will look at it? Have you heard anything else in between?
Regardless of what you may have been told or advised, you will have a certain idea of what you would like you birthing experience to be like, of your preferences and of certain things you really want to avoid, if at all possible.
During a consultation with your Virtual Doula, you can discuss your birthing options, preferences and come up with a map outlining these. Your Doula has knowledge and understanding of how a birth generally goes, of what the labour ward of a hospital looks like, of what generally can be done or is not advised or feasible, etc.
If you are having a home birth, this plan is a perfect opportunity to outline what you want your birthing space to be like and feel like, who you want to be present, and what their role will be.
Wherever you will be having your baby, your birth plan or preferences can describe what your space may be like: lighting, music, the way you would like the people around you to behave, what type of pain management you would prefer, etc.
Your birth plan serves the purpose of showing what may protect your oxytocin levels, what is likely to make you feel safe, heard and unobserved as much as possible, all these promoting the natural development of labour, thus increasing your chances of a positive birth experience.
With clear guidance and an open mind, you can really draw up some preferences and ideas of what will make you feel comfortable and safe to birth and meet your baby for the very first time. It may also help you to visualize your birth, to feel prepared and ready when the time comes.
A birth plan is not an idealistic or an unattainable version of what you want the hospital to do for you why you labour. It is not either a definite or rigid plan of action that will not change. It is a tool that you, your partner and the hospital staff may refer to, in order to make sure your experience is a positive one, and to understand and honour your choices and wishes at a time where you may not be able to voice them anymore.
Your birth preferences are just this: preferences. The more information you can gather during your pregnancy, the clearer these preferences will become for you and the team around you and your virtual doula is a great ally in drawing this plan.
What about a postpartum plan? What is it? What purpose does it serve and why would you want to have one?
Your Virtual Doula can also help you with this. Your postpartum plan consists of all of the things you would like to have around you in the early days and weeks after the birth of your baby; the people you may want around you, how many visitors you feel you will be able to cope with, the professionals you may need to contact, the meals you might enjoy or favourite snacks.
This plan can include everything from meal plans and who will be cooking, to what comfort measures you will need to feel safe, cared for, comfortable, relaxed and nurtured.
Your postpartum plan might outline some wishes you have for your postpartum, items you may need, goals you want to set for yourself (breastfeeding, self-care times, exercising, etc).
As your birth plan, everything in your postpartum plan may not come to fruition, however, it is a great tool to think, plan out and project yourself towards your postpartum period while you are pregnant.
With the help and guidance of your Virtual Doula, you can truly look forward to your labour and birthing experience, as well as your early postpartum by thinking through and drawing up your birth and postpartum plans. You will gain by this exercise, insight and valuable information and find out together with your partner, your wants and wishes for a positive experience.
9- Specific professional support and guidance with a wide range of topics and situation
During pregnancy and in the early weeks postpartum, you will get to see an array of healthcare professionals as well as perinatal care professionals. These are, of course, your GP and midwives and hospital consultants, as well as your pregnancy yoga instructor, baby massage specialist or cranio-sacral osteopath, to name a few.
Your Doula has a network of professionals in your local area and she knows who to contact in what kind of situations.
Whenever you face a concern, issue or have a specific question, your Doula will professionally guide you and inform you so that you can receive the very best care for yourself and your family.
Many women feel that there is very little support close by and feel isolated during their early parenting journey.
However, very often, there are many supports that are available locally if you know where to find them. This is an integral part of your Doula’s role.
If you are in need of specialised help or support during pregnancy or after, but do not know where to begin to find what you need, then your Doula is a fantastic first port of call.
She has connections in many fields and has built a relationship with many other professionals, as well as local support groups, volunteer groups or peer support systems.
You just need to mention to her what your concerns or needs are, and she will make sure you find exactly what you need in your local area whenever is possible.
Your Doula will in fact often have several options for you to choose from because she strongly believes in options and in your right to choose the very best care for you and your family.
As well as a wide professional network, your Doula continuously learns and grows from her experience working with different families, therefore she is likely to accumulate formidable skills and knowledge that you will enjoy.
Listening skills, research and analytical skills, knowledge in all areas of pregnancy, labour, new-born care and early parenthood; your doula is a professional who develops and improves upon consistently.
She will offer you the very best in a professional and caring manner.
10- Your Doula can quiet all the voices around you
When pregnant or at home with your newborn baby, you will very possibly hear a lot of advice by well-intentioned family members, friends and neighbours. You will hear everything and its opposite and you will also read a lot of diverging opinions and methods in magazines, websites or various parenting books.
Beside the fact that it is tricky to navigate all those ideas, opinions and philosophies, and make the right decision for you and your family, it can also get overwhelming, stressful and cause a lot of anxiety.
Many new mums feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed or down in the following days and weeks after the birth of their baby, and receiving this massive (over)load of information is generally not very helpful. This can be very hard to process all by yourself or on your own with your partner.
As we have seen in the points above, your Doula is a great listener, has knowledge and skills in relation to pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, she has research and analytical skills and a great network of other professionals to rely on. She is compassionate and is there for you and you only, without her own agenda in the background.
These put together will benefit you when you really need it, by filtering through all the noise and help you channel your energy towards your own personal goals and make sense of your changing world, while reducing the overwhelming sensation that there is just too much information, too much choice, too much contradiction.
You will have heard it all when it comes to advice in relation to your pregnancy, your childbirth experience, and the way you may choose to look after your baby, but have you heard the sound of your own voice in the middle of this whirlwind? Have you paid attention to how you feel when you hear the advice or concern of others? Are you aware of what you want and sense?
Your Doula is your compass. She will remind you when you need it most that it is YOUR pregnancy, YOUR experience of birthing and YOUR parenting journey and it is YOUR decision to make with all the information, knowledge and care YOU need and deserve!
Your Doula, for either birth, the postpartum period or both is your ally, your guide and your reliable source of information. By hiring a Virtual Doula, you will secure what you need whilst protecting your personal space.
Then again, if during the process you want to meet your Doula in person and decide you actually want her to do home visits, I am sure she will be delighted to if she is available!