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The word doula comes from the Greek word for a “woman who serves”. Used alone, the word doula typically refers to a birth doula, which is a woman who helps during the process of delivering a child. The word postpartum is a Latin word that means “after birth”. So the postpartum doula is another “woman who serves” by providing physical and emotional support after a child has been born.
Historically, women grew up surrounded by other women and their families, including babies and young children. It was a normal part of childhood to help with younger siblings or to witness the birth of a child since most deliveries took place in the home. Changes in modern society have separated family members into separate households across town, across the state, or even across the country. Most births now take place in the foreign atmosphere of the maternity ward in a hospital. As a result, the basic familiarity with the process of giving birth and the support system of caring, experienced relatives is often missing when a child is born. This can leave the new mom and dad struggling to learn how to take care of a new baby without the wisdom of past generations available in the room when they need it.
The role of the postpartum doula is to fill in that missing knowledge and help ease new parents into their roles as caregivers of the new child. With help from a postpartum doula, family members can learn how to provide the support the new mom needs so she can be more successful in taking care of her child. This can have a big impact on her success with breastfeeding and can help reduce the chances that she will develop postpartum depression.
But the role of the doula includes much more than just caring for mother and child. In today’s society, fathers are more involved in the process of pregnancy, delivery, and child-care than ever before. But that doesn’t mean most dads automatically know what to do or how to do it.