I was a labor and delivery nurse for 5 years before I had my first baby. I delivered on the unit where I worked. I had my mom and my sister by my side (my husband was deployed in Iraq) and I knew without a doubt, that having a doula was essential to having an optimal birth experience.
Birth is an intimate space, a special time when it is so important for women to feel safe, nurtured and secure. Without the proper support, the birth space can become an emotionally hostile environment and the body will shut down in order to protect your unborn baby.
Labor can be very painful and it is often difficult for loved ones offering labor support to know just how much “pain” is normal and what can be done to make the process easier. So that brings us to the labor nurse trained and ready to support, right?
1. Nurses are Medical Professionals
Labor and delivery nurses are not a one-size-fits-all medical professional. Some nurses have taken it upon themselves to learn about labor support and how to best support a woman and her family in labor. Other nurses focus primarily on the medical aspects of birth and how best to facilitate a medically safe birth outcome.
Regardless of their philosophy regarding birth, they are responsible to ensure you have a medically safe birth. They are responsible to keep up with Medical Doctor and Certified Nurse Midwife orders, fetal monitoring, IV medications, medical charting and the overall wellbeing of mom and baby.
A nurse can safely manage up to two women in labor. So despite her best efforts and intention, this makes individual labor support quite a challenge.
2. Shift work
The typical nurse works an 8 or 12 hour shift and the typical labor lasts on average 8-10 hours. When a nurse is done with her shift, it's time for the next nurse to begin hers despite the recommendation of continuous labor support producing the most favorable outcome for a woman in labor. 12 hour shifts are simply not conducive to the RN providing this level of care.
3. The Relationship
All nurses are not the same and it is ok to not get along with ALL labor nurses. However, when you come into a hospital there is no interview process before your nurse is assigned to you. The opportunity to establish a connection, a relationship with a person that will share one of the most intimate moments in your life does not exist. The doula relationship is established weeks before arriving at the hospital - this connection is made by you and your family.
4. The Training
Doulas are trained to exclusively provide emotional and physical support. This support comes in early labor by answering questions or making suggestions for ways your partner can support you. As the labor progresses, the doula's job is to focus on YOU and your support team providing suggestions to facilitate a warm nurturing space to welcome your baby to this world.
Labor nurses, even the best dual trained (medical and labor support training) nurses, are split between providing physical emotional support and ensuring medical safety. This is often a challenging situation. Unfortunately, it is often the laboring mom that feels the lack of support in this situation.
A doula is a member of the birth team and her/his role is very important.
5. Stay Home
The hospital is a great place to have a baby! It is not a great place to labor. Hospital policies often place restrictions on movement, eating, drinking and general comfort.
In labor, feeling secure and comfortable is the key to a successful birth, in most cases.
A doula can and will come to your home and provide in-home labor support for you and your support team until you get to the active stage and are ready to go into the hospital for delivery. She will make sure you stay hydrated, rested, reassured and reliant on your inner strength right in the comfort of your own home.
Labor nurses are supportive, trained medical professionals - valued members of the birth team. Doulas provide trained physical and emotional support and are invaluable members of the birth team.
Considering my baby's birthday, hiring a doula was one of the best decisions I could have made. My doula never left my side. She was there for me through every intense contraction, even when my mom thought I had had enough. She called the Red Cross to contact my husband to let him know his son was born. She gave me sips of Gatorade when I had no more strength. She reminded me, after the doctor sent me home for “false labor” that every contraction was my body working. She was my source of information when my own nurse-brain didn’t know what to do.
I am grateful every day, 13 years later, that I had my Melody (my doula). We are still in contact and I often tell her what blessing it was to have her present at the birth of my first baby. To find out how you too can benefit by hiring a labor doula, get to know our team in Atlanta or Tampa by reviewing our bios and holding a free phone consult with the agency owner, Cynthya. We can help you have a happy birthday!