A Doula is responsible for improving the communication between the mother, her support group, and the medical team. While you cannot decide for the mother or intervene in a medical way, you can still support your clients by helping them communicate better.
It is important for your birthing mother to be able to express her desires and be empowered to ask her questions (and get them answered). Some first-time moms may forget their questions especially when they are in the middle of labor. Others might even get intimidated by their nurse and doctor. Some mothers keep quiet because they don’t want to raise a scene. Your role as a doula is to help your client find her voice without speaking on her behalf. Here’s three ways that can develop your doula communication skills:
- Ask questions during your prenatal appointment – Many doulas meet with their clients at least once before labor in order to get to know each other and establish the contract. On your prenatal appointment (or appointments, if you have more than one!) make sure to ask about your birthing family’s birth plan (if they have one). Probe them about their birthing preferences, their worries, and their expectations. If the mom’s partner is available, this is an opportune moment for you to learn about their inclinations. You can learn more about their priorities, and you can even talk with them on how you can work as a team to communicate with their healthcare providers.
As their doula, this is the right time to raise questions and discuss topics that must be mulled over before the mom starts her labor. You must be as thorough as possible and talk with the mother about her priorities and preferences—including the ones that she failed to tell you. Even those who aren’t new to giving birth might forget a thing or two! Take the initiative and ask questions, this is part of preparation.
- Role play (hypothetical) situations – As a doula, use your experience in supporting other families and ask them what they would do in the event “a situation” occurs. While each family’s birth experience and conditions may be unique, your clients can learn from your experience and gain better insight about labor and birth. Allow the mom to talk how she would respond in each situation, whether it be a positive or a negative scenario. If she is working with a support group (her partner, family, or friends), ask them how they would confront a problem. This can help you familiarize yourself with how your birthing family decides. You can form a more effective working relationship if you are aware who will take the lead in decisions. The mother might want to have the say in certain circumstances, or her partner might want to be a part of decision making. Role playing scenarios can help them be familiar with the situation.
- Help them talk during the labor and birthing process – As a doula, you might need to occasionally remind your birthing family about their priorities, their birth plan, and their preferences. You must also be familiar about the questions they want to ask. You’re not there to speak on behalf of your clients, but you can assist them and jog their memories or prompt them to speak.
For example, while your mom-client has a conversation with a healthcare provider she forgets to ask a question about an issue she initially wanted to know more about. Don’t ask it on your own, even if you know your client wants to know. Instead, throw the question back at them, “I remember you said that you wanted to learn more about/ ask about ____?” Take note that your clients may also change their minds, or be forced to make a decision that contradicts their birth plan. Instead of acting based on prior knowledge, gently remind them about their initial plans. Confirm their decision and act accordingly. Prepare yourself and your clients for sudden changes in the plan. Explain such possibilities might occur during the prenatal appointment.
As a Doula, your primary role is to act as support to the mother. You have her best interests in mind, but you cannot be the one to decide for her. Some people tend to forget things when other healthcare professionals are with them. They might also feel rushed and panicked. If needed, have your mom and her partner to have a few minutes to themselves to decide on something. Some healthcare providers can allot some time for the parents to discuss things on their own. The important thing is that you foster an environment where your clients are able to make sound judgment.
Do you have tips to share about how to improve communication between doula and her birthing family? Share them in the comments below!