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; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
During delivery, doulas are in constant and close proximity to the mother. They have the ability to provide comfort with pain relief techniques that include breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and laboring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance.
A doula acts as an advocate for the mother, encouraging and helping her fulfill specific desires that she might have for her birth. The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth, whether an un-medicated birth or cesarean.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
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 Postpartum Doula
-Offers education, companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum fourth trimester.
-Assists with newborn care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light household tidying.
-Offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary.