Sometimes, it can be hard to put into words exactly what your doula will do for your when you’re in labour. We are often hired by our clients because they know that having a doula on their team can reduce the risk of c-section, help them breastfeed with greater success, and generally just increase the likelihood of a positive birth outcome.

While it’s true that we can do all that, we will also provide you with some pretty important reminders (and a lot of practical tools for implementing these reminders). Here are three that we want you to know.

1. Breathing really is that important.
It sounds simple, and you might be wondering, “I’m going to give birth to an entire human, and you think just BREATHING is going to make me feel better about it?!”. Yeah, we hear you- it might feel like something that you’re doing 24/7 anyway won’t hold a candle to labour. However, a steady and strong breathing pattern is all about keeping your mind- and your body- relaxed and calm. When your breathing gets out of control, you tend to struggle more with intense sensations and pain.

2. You’re calling the shots.
It’s not uncommon to feel out of control when you’re in labour (it’s no wonder that most of our clients self-identify as “planners”, “list-makers”, or even just “control freaks”!). It can be hard to focus on conversations with your care providers and to keep up with the activity in the room when your labour requires your attention, too! It’s important to remember that you are the boss of your birth, and that even if things don’t go according to plan (or even if you don’t have a plan at all), you are always allowed to ask questions, take time to think about decisions you need to make, and ask for space and time (unless it’s an emergency) to make the best choice for you.

Our doulas use the BRAIN acronym to help clients navigate decisions they may need to make during labour, like intervention, pain management, or unforeseen circumstances. The great part about having a doula on your support team is that they are trained in helping you handle the unexpected, readjust your perspective, and make a new game plan- all when it’s happening on the fly, during labour! If you won’t have a doula with you during labour, spend some time now thinking about potential scenarios and how you might feel during them. How do you handle decision-making? What will help you make decisions during your labour?

3. It’s okay if your plans change.
Birth is a wildcard. It’s messy, it’s intense, and it’s impossible to plan. While it’s a great idea to know how you feel about things like pain medication, pushing options, and hospital policy at Nanaimo Regional, it’s also important to remember that flexibility is key. Sometimes, your birth plans need to change because your labour is really long (or really short), you’re being induced, or you experience complications (among many other reasons). Navigating a difficult birth experience can sometimes feel overwhelming and traumatic, but getting attached to specific outcomes can be a recipe for disappointment or resentment. Try to set realistic goals for your birth, but stay open to the possibility that you may need to change your expectations in the final hour. Your doula can guide you through these difficult scenarios and help you feel empowered by your decisions, rather than overwhelmed by them.