Doulas - The Modern Day Birth Sherpas

Sherpas are regarded as elite mountaineers and experts in guiding people through the most treacherous of mountain terrains.  Even expert mountain climbers hire Sherpas for serious mountain climbing such as trekking the Himalayas or climbing Mt. Everest.  Do they have to?  No, but word gets around fast;  Hiring a Sherpa will make the experience so much easier.  Sherpas can be invaluable to making the experience safer and more pleasant.  Doulas are birth Sherpas.  We know birth inside and out.  We walk families through the process from start to finish.  We are experts you can lean on in every situation, every step of the way.  Partners aren’t left to stare at a map and try to figure out which move to make next, their Sherpa knows all the pathways and alternate routes already.

Let’s say your goal is to climb to the top of a huge mountain such as Everest.  You learn all that you can.  You take classes, you poor through books, and even watch some videos.  Sometimes that is enough.  What if while doing your homework,  you polled everyone that climbed that mountain and discovered that most people had trouble making it to the top on foot without the help of a Sherpa?  What if you found that the people who hired a Sherpa were much happier with their experience?  Less likely to need medical help?  Hiring a doula is very much like that and more.  Studies show that when a woman receives continuous support from a doula, they are more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births, less likely to have pain medication, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, negative feelings about childbirth, and their chances of having a cesarean were greatly reduced!  In addition, their labors were shorter, Pitocin augmentation was used less, and their babies fared better, having higher APGAR scores at birth, and lower NICU transfers.   

So why can’t your mother or partner “be the doula” and do the same thing?  Well, those studies were done, and for some reason the studies did not provide the same outcomes.  In fact best results occurred when women had continuous support from someone NOT from the mother’s social network or even provided by the hospital staff.  --2012, Hodnett et al.  It’s easy to understand why, but perhaps I’ll leave that for another day.  The bottom line is doulas know birth.  They are the birth Sherpas of this world.  They have climbed that mountain many times and know so many tricks to make it a safer and easier journey.  

You might be thinking – “well what if I don’t want to take the long hard trek up the mountain”?  “What if I want to take the elevator and enjoy the view once I get to the top”?  “Why would I need a doula for that”?  The answer is simple.  Even if you want an epidural, or even an elective cesarean, a doula can help you plan for the safest passageway to the top.  She knows some awesome things that will make the view on the way up much more pleasant and beautiful.  She is there if the elevator gets broken and you have to climb to the top via the stairs, or even through the mountainous terrain.  Yeah that happens sometimes!  

No matter how you climb that mountain, your life has changed forever. Birth changes you.  Being a parent changes you. You have a tiny new human to feed and carry home. Your doula will most likely come to your home at least once after the birth to check on you and help provide those last minute resources, tips and tricks to get your footing again.  If parenting in those early weeks scares you more than climbing Mt. Everest, than consider a postpartum doula to help ease your transition in those early weeks too!  Yeah, there’s a doula for that too!