What is a doula? The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves.” She is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother, before, during and just after the birth of your baby.
Women have complex needs during childbirth. In addition to the medical care and the love and support provided by your partner or family, you need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement, and respect. A birth doula can give you individualized care based on your circumstances and preferences. She can offer a loving touch, help with comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning, and can help make you feel nurtured and cared for by offering hot or cold compresses, assisting in warm baths or showers, fetching beverages or snacks, or giving your partner much needed rest.
What effect can the presence of a doula have on your birth? Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
- Tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- Reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- Reduces the need for pitocin, forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- Reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidural
What effect can the presence of a doula have on you? Research has shown that parents:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
What effect can the presence of a doula have on your baby? Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily, and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.
Does a doula replace the nursing staff? No, doulas do not replace nurses, midwives, or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform medical tasks such as taking blood pressure, monitoring fetal heart rate, or performing vaginal exams. They do not offer second opinions or give medical advice. They are there for comfort, support, and to enhance communication between the family and medical professionals.
Does a doula make decisions on my behalf? A doula does not make decisions for her clients or intervene in their clinical care. She is there to provide informational and emotional support and respect any decision the woman and her care provider agree upon.
Will a doula make my partner or family feel unnecessary? Not at all. A doula is there to support both the laboring woman and her partner and plays a crucial role in helping the partner become involved to whatever extent feels comfortable.