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.

Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

 The Doula's Contribution to Modern Maternity Care (DONA Position paper)

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 does NOT….

  • Perform any clinical tasks such as vaginal exams, fetal heart tone monitoring, etc.

  • Provide any medical advice

  • Make decisions for the couple or to speak to the clinical staff on the couple’s behalf regarding their decisions

  • Does not replace the dad/partner in his/her role

(dona.org) 

What are the benefits of having a birth doula?

Women who use birth doulas are more satisfied with their birth experience, require fewer interventions during labor and delivery, and have higher rates of breastfeeding than women without doula support.

Worldwide clinical studies have shown that the presence of a birth doula commonly results in:

  • Parents feeling more supported

  • Shorter labors

  • Decrease in cesarean births

  • Fewer forceps and vacuum extraction births

  • Fewer interventions (less Pitocin, less medication)

  • Increase well-being for baby (less NICU)

  • Increase breastfeeding success

  • Better bonding

  • Moms who are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression and are happier with their birth experience

Will a Doula replace my partner?

 A doula can never replace your partner's role. Your partner knows you better than your doula and is irreplaceable. It is also an understandable concern that a doula could affect the intimacy of your birth. A doula can in fact enhance your partners role as well as protect the intimate moments of your birth. Here are a few ways doulas support and work with your birth partner to enhance the birth experience for both of you:

A Doula:

  • ...s a trained birth professional who understands the process of labor and can answer questions and assure both of you throughout labor and birth. This takes a great deal of pressure and responsibility off of your partner to remember everything he learned in birth classes or books. 

  • ...can have suggestions on labor positions, massage techniques, birth plan reminders for a partner who wants to be active and involved

  • ...can step into a more active role with the laboring mother for the birth partner who wishes to be more hands off

  • ...makes sure your partner is taken care of during your labor with food, drinks, sleep, as well as emotionally, in the case that he is worried or overwhelmed, he has someone to talk to who understands and has answers.

  • ...can give the birth partner a break during a long labor, to take a nap or get coffee or food.

  • ....can bring snacks to the father so he can stay with the laboring mother continuousl.

  • ...can take photos when the baby is born so that your partner can be fully present.

  • ...Ultimately takes the pressure off of your partner o that he can concentrate on you fully and experience the birth alongside you.

Each family will have their own desires for the doula's role. In prenatal meetings it is important to discuss and clarify your desires and vision for your doula's role in your birth.

Are doulas only for natural childbirth?

No. This is a common misconception. Every woman, whatever her desires for childbirth can benefit from having continuous, compassionate support during labor.

What if I want an epidural?

A doula can be especially beneficial in the following ways:

  • he can help you receive accurate and transparent information about epidurals before labor

  • he can help you labor as long as possible before getting the epidural which can minimize some of the risks such as fetal malpositioning or slowing of labor progress. There is also a waiting period between when you ask for the epidural and receive it which she can help you through

  • She can help you stay calm during the administration of the epidural

  • She can offer safe and beneficial positions for laboring ith an epidural to support labor progression and beneficial fetal positioning

  • She can answer any questions about recommended interventions.

  • She maintains her attention on you, while the nurses will be checking your iv fluids, fetal monitor, blood pressure cuff or medication

  • She can stay with you if your birth partner needs to take a na

  • Her primary focus is your rest and relaxation and emotional state throughout labor

  • She can offer beneficial pushing positions 

  • She brings no judgement whatsoever. Requesting an epidural can be emotional and frightening, particularly if you had planned a natural childbirth. She is there to empower and support you in whatever decision you make, and help you through the emotions of it all.

What if I want a C-section?

A doula can be quite valuable during a c-section, whether planned or not. She can support you in the following ways:

  • She can help you in the formation of a cesarean birth plan, whether you are planning a cesarean or not. This can be very beneficial in the event of an emergency cesarean to help you maintain autonomy in your birth

  • She can discuss your feelings about the c-section and offer tips and advice on recovery beforehand

  • She can support your partner while you are being prepped for surgery

  • Depending on policy your doula can remain by your side during the surgery. She can help you use relaxation techniques, visualizations and calm breathing during the procedures.

  • She can take photographs so your partner can be fully present

  • She can help you facilitate skin-to-skin after baby is born

  • She can stay with you when the baby is taken for monitoring with your partner, or go with the baby to the nursery so that your partner can stay with you.

  • She can offer physical and emotional support in the recovery room

  • he can support you postpartum with light housework, suggestions for breastfeeding positions and baby holding.

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?

A midwife is a trained medical professional with special expertise in supporting women through a healthy pregnancy and birth. It is the midwife who will actually deliver your baby and perform necessary medical examinations throughout your pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum period. 

The doula acts as emotional, physical and informational support for the mother and her partner, prenatally, during labor, birth and postpartum.