The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves”. Today this term defines non-medical professionals, who offer their physical and emotional support to women throughout their labor and postpartum experience.
While the job requires great heart, you will find a significant amount of knowledge in the brain of a prospective doula. They are educators, great listeners, active labor and capable breastfeeding supporters.
The goal in your search for proper doula support, is to find she who is wearing your family camouflage.
A birth doula:
Has studied the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor.
Will assist in preparation and carrying out the woman’s birth preferences.
Will be present through the entirety of labor.
Keeps up on current and valid studies in women’s health, offers an objective viewpoint, and helping clients collect the information they need to make informed decisions.
Will remind clients of their ability to communicate clearly with each other, and health care providers according to their birth preferences, and what is seen to be medically necessary.
Will provide emotional and physical support throughout labor.
Supports the laboring woman’s partner to participate at their comfort level.
Will be there to nurture and protect the woman’s memory of her birth experience.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
A postpartum doula:
Will offer education, companionship and objective support during the fourth trimester.
Provides 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.
Assists with newborn care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light household tidying.
Recent studies show that the quality support of a postpartum doula can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to a family, improve parental satisfaction and reduce the risk of postnatal mood disorders.
The above definitions were adapted from the DONA International standards of practice.