What is a Doula and How Can They Help?
“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 and partner before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period”.
Doulas do not give medical advice or perform or interpret medical procedures such as vital signs, fetal heart tones, or vaginal exams. Rather, Doula’s give birthing parents the information they need to make their own informed decisions and is supportive of those decisions.
A Birth Doula
- Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
- Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
- Stays with the woman throughout the labor
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions
- Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
- Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience
- Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level
- A birth doula certified by DONA International is designated by the initials CD(DONA).
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
- A postpartum doula certified by DONA International is designated by the initials PCD(DONA).
An anthropologist by the name of Dana Raphael first used the term Doula in her book “Tender Gift: Breastfeeding” in 1973 to refer to experienced mothers who assisted new mothers with newborn care and breastfeeding.
Later clinical trials were conducted by Marshall Klaus and John Kennell that showed that the simple presence of another woman improved birth outcomes, decreased cesarean rates, and improved maternal satisfaction – even if the woman was just sitting quietly alongside the birthing mother! Some of their statistics are outlined in their book “Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter and Healthier Birth” (1993) and include:
- 50% reduction in the cesarean rate
- 25% shorter labor
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 40% reduction in synthetic oxytocin use
- 30% reduction in analgesia use
The Modern Doula:
Today, Doula’s attend many births in the US. They are loving and compassionate women who are called to this very special work. No two doulas are the same or provide the exact same services. A doula’s talents are wide ranging and differ tremendously. I believe that there is a perfect doula for every couple or single mother. If you feel that I may not be the doula for you, I am happy to help you find your match! Please do not hesitate to call me with your criteria and I will do my best to help connect you with “your” Doula.