What is a Doula?
The History of Doulas
Some doulas, like me, also provide emotional, educational and practical support during the postpartum period. Studies show when doulas attend a birth, labor is shorter, with fewer complications; babies are healthier, and they breastfeed more easily. Studies also show doulas assisting families postpartum lowers risks for postpartum depression.
THE MODERN DOULA
In modern-day terms, a doula is a non-medical caregiver providing emotional support during pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond.
A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides nonjudgmental emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother and/or her partner. A doula does not take the place of your partner, midwife, or doctor but adds to your support team.
The relationship between doula and client often begins months before the actual birth. During this prenatal time, a strong relationship is formed that will provide the foundation of birth services. Doulas also take this time to educate clients on the birth process and provide educational materials to inform expecting families of their options for their birth plan. Although doulas do not provide medical care, they are educated in many aspects of medical care during labor and delivery and can give clients evidence-based information to better understand procedures and possible complications.
During delivery, doulas provide comfort measures such as breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and position changes to ease a mother through labor. They also provide emotional support and encouragement to laboring mothers in order to achieve a positive and empowering birth experience. A doula will also teach skills so mothers are better able to advocate for themselves and communicate their birth preferences to medical providers.
WHAT IS A BIRTH DOULA?
A Birth Doula will assist women and their partners in preparation for childbirth by teaching comfort measures for labor, offering education before labor, and providing emotional and physical support through pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
The truth about birth – and most things in life – is you don’t know what you don’t know. This is one of the countless reasons expecting parents choose to hire a doula. A doula trained in birth will help to fill in the missing information from every angle, not just one side. Doulas give moms and dads a new fearless perspective about birth.
WHAT IS A POSTPARTUM DOULA?
A Postpartum doula support offers emotional support and hands-on education after your baby is born. The needs of each family are unique and your doula will help each family member by anticipating their needs and keeping them informed and supported throughout the process. Having an extra set of hands and a trustworthy, nonjudgmental source of information can make an important difference for families. You can ask your doula anything about caring for your baby without embarrassment.
Postpartum doulas can also assist in creating a schedule and planning details that may otherwise be overlooked (like how you will eat and shower). A Postpartum Doula helps ensure your needs are met during the first weeks after your baby is born. Your doula is the calm, nurturing voice and works to make your experience at home pleasurable and memorable.
You can hire a doula for birth, postpartum or both based on the needs of your family.
WHAT IS A BEREAVEMENT DOULA?
A bereavement doula has specialized training and experience within the complexities of loss and uses this focus to serve families who have lost their baby through miscarriage or stillbirth. A bereavement doula will help the family welcome and honor their baby and begin to heal from their loss.
DOULAS ARE FOR DADS AND PARTNERS, TOO!
Dads and partners who are able and excited to be involved in the pregnancy and birth will have my doula support too. It can be easy to overlook how overwhelmed partners may be through this experience. In so many ways, it is the exact situation in which they want to take care of everything and feel like they “got this.”
Ultimately, though, it is the one situation in which they have little or no control. And I want to acknowledge how hard it can be to see the person you love going through birth. It’s wonderful, but it’s hard on the heart at times. Don’t worry, partners, I’m not here to takeover or push you out of the way. I am there for you, as well. There is plenty for you to do that will make a world of difference for the mother of your child. I will coach you through birth so you can interpret what your partner needs, advocate for her, and make sure you understand what is happening through each step.
WHY HIRE A BIRTH DOULA?
Numerous studies have documented positive outcomes associated with doula services. A doula understands the physical and emotional stress of labor and will assist a mother and her partner to prepare for childbirth and have a more positive birth experience.
With the support of a doula:
- Cesarean rates are reduced by 50%
- Length of labor is reduced by 25%
- Use of Pitocin is reduced by 40%
- Need for pain medication is reduced by 30%
- Requests for epidural pain management is reduced by 60 %
- Mom’s self-image is increased
- Satisfaction in the overall birth experience is increased
- Relationship between mom and partner improved.
With the support of a doula, babies are:
- More likely to have higher APGAR scores
- Less likely to be admitted to special care units. (Information provided by Mothering the Mother, Klaus, Klaus, and Kennel)
Studies have shown with a doula present at birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications.
— DONA International (http://www.dona.org)
SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF DOULAS SUPPORT
As a doula, I do not perform clinical tasks, such as blood pressures, fetal assessments, vaginal exams, or any diagnosis. I am present to provide for your physical comfort, to nurture you, for emotional support and advocacy. I won’t make decisions for you. I will empower you to get the information necessary to make informed decisions. A medical team is required for home births.