The role of a birth doula is to be a supplemental source of support during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period.
The word "doula" itself comes from ancient Greek, and means "servant to the mother." A "servant to the mother" is what a doula strives to be, providing physical, emotional and informational support in addition to what a woman receives from her healthcare provider.
"I'm there to give continuous support to the mom, giving encouragement through words, and helping with comfort measures like massage and helping the laboring mom through birth position changes," Sara Brentrup, certified birth doula in Minot, said.
Submitted Photo - - Certified birth doula Sara Brentrup, left, works with client Amber Klein on a birth ball, holding a shawl around her back in practicing a technique Brentrup uses during labor.
Brentrup's interest in doula services began with her second pregnancy, when she began researching natural childbirth options.
"Through my research, I learned about doulas, and I had an interest in hiring one," Brentrup said. "I hired one from Fargo, and she came to Minot to attend the birth. After that, I thought, Minot really needs this. I found a training program that worked for me and I became certified. From what I have seen, the interest in it has been slowly growing."
"I have a passion for helping moms make their birth experience whatever they want it to be. I'm there to help them achieve that," she said.
Birth doulas are present during labor to help with comfort measures, and they also make prenatal and postpartum visits.
During prenatal visits, Brentrup explained, doulas can offer information and discuss different childbirth options.
"I like to start seeing moms at the end of their pregnancy, to get to know them," Brentrup said. "That way, when labor starts, we have a good relationship. I use that time to learn about her wishes and figure out how I'm going to best help her."
"We'll create a birth plan, and I will gather information about the topics that they have questions on, so they can make the most informed decisions that they feel are right for them," she added.
Once labor begins, the expectant mom calls her doula. The doula then remains with her throughout the labor and birth, at a hospital or at her home if the birth is attended by a certified midwife.
"Every birth and every family is different, so I treat each birth individually. You have to adapt to whatever is coming," Brentrup said. "For me, my preference during labor was to be alone, and my doula really picked up on my cues. She stayed close by, but let me labor in my own way. I learned from that, that it's important to be aware of what mom wants and adapt your way of doing things as her needs change."
"It's all about getting back to that women-helping-women model of care, though the dad has an equally important role," Brentrup said. "I can often help the dads, too, who don't always feel comfortable or know what the right thing to do is. I can be there to guide them in giving labor support."
Brentrup explained that as a doula, her role becomes more active during the "hard part" of labor -- the transition period.
"Transition, from between 8 to 10 centimeters dilation, is usually when moms start to feel a lot of pressure and start feeling out of control," she said. "When moms get to that point, that's usually when I step in and take a more assertive role, talking her through contractions."
"During that time, when the moms are overwhelmed and their partners get scared and nervous, it helps to have that trained support person around," she added.
After labor, the doula remains with the mom for a few hours to help her adjust. The doula will then make one to two postpartum visits to discuss newborn care, breastfeeding and other postpartum concerns.
"After labor, we will reflect on the birth," Brentrup said. "I take notes while they are in labor, because sometimes during labor you lose a sense of time. I can let them know how long certain phases of labor were, and we'll talk about the day. It's helpful for them to process the birth with someone who understands and who was there."
"I'm also there to help them get information resources on postpartum issues like newborn care, postpartum depression and breastfeeding," she added.
Brentrup said that overall, her job is very rewarding.
"It's rewarding just helping and seeing moms getting through that tough point of labor, and that look they have afterward," she said. "It's great to be with them during that whole experience."