The term doula in Greek means "a woman who serves". This word has now come to represent a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and immediately following birth. A doula supports whatever birth decisions you make and advocates for your choices. Whether you are planning a hospital birth, a home birth, a VBAC, or a planned c-section a doula will help you have the birth experience you hope for. Women have very complex needs during pregnancy, childbirth, and the immediate postpartum period. These needs are individualized and are based on her circumstances and personal preferences. Aside from medical care and the support of loved ones a birthing mother benefits greatly from the presence of a doula. A doulas main focus is the mother and her birth experience. Mothers who have the continuous supportive care of a doula report being more satisfied by their birth and also produce lower levels of stress hormones during labor. Your doula will also stay with you immediately following birth to assist with infant bonding and breastfeeding support.
What does a doula do?
A doula is there for you during your pregnancy to answer any questions you may have, give you informational support, and help prepare you for labor and delivery. Your doula can offer a wide range of help before labor by assisting you with your birth plan, showing you and your partner comfort techniques for labor, and even just a general ear when you need to talk about any fears you are having regarding your upcoming birth. A doula's main focus is the mother, her needs,, and her empowerment and comfort before, during, and after the birth of her baby.
Does the doula take the place of my partner or other family members?
This is a question on most parent's minds when they talk about hiring a doula. Your doula is there to improve upon your birth experience in any way possible. The people whom you love and trust will be there to hold your hand and encourage you but they are not trained in labor support. A doula in no way replaces the love and support of a partner or other family members who are attending the birth. She can assist the partner with comfort measures, facilitate duties to anyone who feels like they don't know what to do to help, or be the main hands on comfort while your partner is there sharing in the birth experience with you. A wonderful article by Penny Simkin can be viewed here for further information on how the doula and partner work together during your birth.
What if I get an epidural?
A doula can still benefit your labor and delivery if you chose to have an epidural. She can assist you with positioning, remaining active in your labor, and give you suggestions and encouragement during the pushing stage.
What if I have a C-Section? A doula's support does not end if a c-section is necessary. Your doula will stay by your side as long as the hospital allows and will continue to be there after your birth to assist with bonding and breastfeeding.
How does having a doula help labor?
When a doula attends your birth labors tend to be shorter with fewer complications, babies are born healthier and tend to breastfeed more easily, and women report having an overall better birth experience. Doulas provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. Your doula will offer a loving touch, reassurance in your birth experience, optimal positioning techniques and comfort measures that make the mother feel nurtured and cared for.
When do you join me in labor?
I like to be called when you think you are in labor, even if you do not yet need me, so we can both prepare. Together we will decide if I should come or if we will wait for further change. I will come to you whenever you need me or when active labor begins. I can meet you at your home or at the location for your birth. I prefer to meet my clients at home to labor together before transport to the hospital or birthing center.