Doulas & Pelvic Floor Health
Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be scary and full of unknowns. It’s a life-changing experience that affects everyone in the family. While doctors, midwives, and nurses provide care for the medical aspects of pregnancy and delivery, doulas can help with the physical, mental, and emotional side of things. They can help prepare you for childbirth, provide support during labor, and assist after your baby is born.
Doulas can also play a very important role in their clients’ pelvic health journeys, as they focus on providing education, care, and advocacy that creates a positive and empowering experience for birthing parents and their partners.
What is a doula?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, a doula “is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a parent who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth.” And while doulas do not provide direct medical care, they are knowledgeable about many aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period and can provide valuable guidance and emotional support. Whether you are a first-time parent or already have children, a doula can help guide you into your new role with a holistic approach to care.
In addition, a doula can help advocate for a birthing experience that’s right for you. While they do not replace an ob-gyn or other trained medical professional, they do act with your values, wishes, and best interests in mind. They can help ensure that your birthing preferences are communicated to your medical team, and they can be a true partner in helping you make informed decisions about your care. They can help make sure you understand and consent to medical treatments and procedures that your doctors may recommend.
Why are doulas important?
Doulas can often provide much more individualized and continual support than your medical team may be able to offer, and different types of doulas provide different services to meet a range of needs. From breathing exercises during labor to breastfeeding assistance to postpartum in-home care, your doula can offer vital support in a variety of ways.
A doula can be helpful no matter what your birthing experience may look like. For both vaginal and C-section deliveries, the benefits of having a doula are well-documented. Studies show that having access to a doula throughout pregnancy and after birth can result in reduced rates of premature labor, reduced rates of infant mortality, and other positive birth outcomes. And it’s not just the birthing parent who benefits from a doula’s education, support, and advocacy. As DONA International puts it, “doulas have a positive impact on the well-being of the entire family.”
How can a doula help with pelvic floor health?
Doulas can play a huge role in supporting their clients along their pelvic health journeys, and there are many ways they can help. They might help their clients learn why their pelvic floor is important, how it functions, and how it changes during pregnancy and childbirth. They might provide guidance on how to relax the pelvic floor muscles in preparation for birth, and they can help their clients be proactive about their pelvic floor health. “They can support the birthing parent in learning how to push safely, effectively, and protect the pelvic floor for birth,” says the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute. They can recommend options for laboring positions and comfort measures. They may also be able to recommend some at-home exercises or movements to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, and they can help birthing parents re-introduce physical activity after their baby is born.
Because of their close emotional relationship, a doula might be the first (or only) person with whom a pregnant or new parent feels comfortable discussing any pelvic floor symptoms, questions, or concerns they have. Doulas may introduce pelvic floor physical therapy to their clients, and they can provide referrals to trusted healthcare professionals or specialists.
Doulas are a wealth of knowledge and trusted advisors in a birthing person’s journey. If you have the means, a doula is an integral part of a birthing team. If you know someone who would benefit from knowing more about doulas, please share this article with them. Help us spread the word about how impactful doulas can be and how they can lead to better outcomes for everyone on the journey.
**Medical Disclaimer: This post is intended to provide information and resources only. This post or any of the information contained within should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Always seek the guidance of your qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding your healthcare, conditions, and recommended treatment.