Okay! Many of you are already asking what the HECK is a doula?? A snack? A flotation device? Maybe an animal with webbed feet?
Good guesses, gang, but read on for the truth, in this first part of our series on the benefits of doulas.
Doula (pronounced doo-lah) is a Greek word that historically meant “servant.” Now it refers to professionals trained to give support during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.
Doulas are experts in prenatal education, labors and deliveries, infant care, abortion support, and more! Essentially, doulas serve the pregnant person — and if she has one, a partner — in whatever capacity necessary during the perinatal period.
A doula does it all, from answering questions about weird bodily functions, and offering suggestions on various labor positions, to cooking a meal for tired parents, or just offering words of encouragement.
Doulas work to make pregnancy and the transition to parenthood a positive, empowering experience.
As a doula, I’ve had the enormous privilege of being present at many births. I’ve sat with a woman as she breathes through contractions, and watched a partner’s eyes widen at a woman’s strength to push her baby into the world. I've witnessed the first moment that a parent finally meets their child.
I understand why recent studies indicate that having a doula present at your birth decreases the likelihood of needing a C-section and other medical interventions. It shortens the time you are in labor, and increases your chances of feeling positive about the entire experience.
But more specific stories are to come ... let’s get back to the basics!
Who Can Be a Doula?
Honestly, anyone that you trust in a delivery room can act as a doula! But there is a training and certification process that most professional doulas complete to build skills, share strategies, and review the most updated, evidence-based information.
Doulas are versed in fetal development and common pregnancy events. We are familiar with signs of labor, and the phases and stages that are part of its process.
We know comfort measures, breathing techniques, positions and massages that can ease intense sensations. We can explain benefits and drawbacks to medical interventions, and typical hospital practices or procedures.
Doulas are NOT health professionals — we don’t give medical advice or make decisions. Instead, we offer data that allow you to make your own, informed choices. Doulas help you to continue feeling powerful and aware of your options.
“Wait,” you are saying, “I have a partner! Why can’t they just be my doula?”
While your partner is an EXCELLENT support person during labor and delivery, at some point they will probably have to leave to use the bathroom, eat or take a mini-nap. A doula can support you during these times.
We never take your partner’s place — rather, we give a partner suggestions that support and encourage a feeling of involvement, of being useful and more present for you emotionally. Doulas see a wide variety of birth situations, and can therefore offer advice and reminders without bias.
While a partner may initially be skeptical of inviting an extra person into the delivery room, the partner is often the one singing a doula’s praises after the baby is born!
Stay tuned for more on what a doula can do to benefit you and your baby!
1) Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database System Review. Retrieved Jan 30, 2016.
2) toLabor. Retrieved Jan 30, 2016.
Reviewed February 3, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith