What is a Doula?
What is a Doula?
The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. You can choose to have a doula to assist you throughout one or all stages of your pregnancy, labor and birth.
A doula is an individual who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to pregnant clients and their families. Doulas are not medically trained individuals. However, doula training includes a review of the phases of pregnancy and labor, possible complications of birth, and the role of potential medical interventions (Pitocin augmentation, electronic fetal monitoring, pharmacological agents, etc.). In addition, doulas learn special skills to help clients relax and cope with the intensity of birth, including massage, relaxation and breathing techniques, and position changes.
Antepartum Doulas; Support during your pregnancy
An Antepartum doula’s role is to:
- Understand the physiological and emotional needs of a pregnant woman, especially with regards to common discomforts, testing options, nutritional needs and more
- Whether a woman is on bed rest or not, an antepartum doula can help a new mother in her household by cooking meals, performing light housework, helping organize things for the new baby, and, most importantly, providing individualized emotional and informational support to the mother and family.
- There are many decisions you will have to make regarding your prenatal care. An Antepartum doula can take the time to walk with you through decisions regarding your options for testing, nutrition, health care in order to ensure that you are making the most informed choices.
Birth Doula; Support during your labor
The birth doula provides consistent support during the birth process. A birth doula will meet with you two or more times prior to your birth. A birth doula’s role is to
- Recognize birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
- Understand the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
- Assist the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
- Stays with the woman throughout the labor
- Provide emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
- Facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
- Nurture and protect the woman’s memory of the birth experience
- Allow the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level
Postpartum Doula ; Support after your labor
Research evidence shows that the quality services of a postpartum doula can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to a family, improve parental satisfaction and reduce the risk of mood disorders. A postpartum doula:
- Offers education, companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum fourth trimester
- Assists with newborn care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light household tidying
- Offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary
- Anyone can benefit from having a doula attend his or her birth. Doulas aim to support the choices of the person and their family regardless of whether they choose a “natural” birth or pain management with an epidural. Doulas also support people through cesarean sections. It is a doula’s role to support the client regardless of their birth choices.