What is a doula?
The word doula (pronounced doo-la) is translated from the Greek word meaning "woman of service". Today it is used to describe a woman who is trained in childbirth or postpartum support. A doula provides continuous emotional, physical, and informational support to a new mother and her family. This support takes place before labor, during labor, and after the child is born. A doula has knowledge and understanding of the physiological process of birth as well as insight into the emotional needs of a woman in labor. A doula can help with gathering information and facilitating communication between all people involved in a woman's birth. A doula provides non-medical support and can offer comfort measures such as massage, heat/cold therapy, and position changes while helping and encouraging the woman's partner to be involved in the birth process.
Doula Support has been shown to:
"If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it." ~ John H. Kennell, MD
Benefits of Doula Support
Labor can be intense even if the mother is armed with education and surrounded by people who care for her. A gentle birth is easier to create when the mother chooses and trusts the support team that is in the birthing room with her. Including a doula in the support team increases the mother's chances of having the birth that she desires. A doula will meet with the family before the birth to become familiar with what the mother wants out of her birth experience. The doula will then work diligently to create the mothers expressed desires.
A Cochrane Review published in 2012 by Hodnett and colleagues states that a woman recieving continous labor support from a doula experiences:
"Expectant mothers need to be mothered; their hearts need to be infused with love, confidence, and determination."
A doula does not:
- Perform clinical tasks such as blood pressure checks, listen to fetal heart tones, perform cervical exams, or any other medical procedure.
- Provide dosages or advice concerning medication or medical procedures for you or your baby.
- Make decisions for you.
- Judge, criticize, or shame you for decisions you make.
- Speak to medical staff on your behalf.
- Take the place of your partner. A doula's goal is to support both parents through the birth.