What is a Doula?
“A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help a birthing person have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience.”
— American Pregnancy Association
A birth doula is a companion who supports a birthing person during labor and birth.
Someone who recognizes the woman’s birth experience as an important life event that will be remembered for the rest of her life; understanding the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a someone in labor.
As a Birth Doula
I accompany women in labor to help ensure a safe and satisfying birth experience. I have completed training approved by DONA International and Childbirth International. I draw on my professional training, knowledge and experience to provide emotional support, physical comfort and, as needed, communication with the staff to ensure that you have the information you need to make informed decisions as they arise in labor. I can provide reassurance and perspective to you and your partner, make suggestions for labor progress, and help with relaxation, massage, positioning and other techniques for comfort.
As Your Doula
I am independent and self-employed. I am working for you, not your caregiver or the facility (i.e. hospital, birthing center, etc.).
I will meet with you at least once before labor to become acquainted, to explore and discuss your priorities and any fears or concerns, to discuss your birth plan and to plan how we might best work together. I also want to know your best ways of coping with pain and fatigue and how you and your partner foresee working together. I will inform you of times when I’m unavailable for labor support. To cover those times, I will attempt to arrange a qualified back-up doula whom you may also meet. We may also decide on other meetings and will certainly want to remain in touch by telephone and/or email.
When You Are in Labor
I prefer that my clients call me when they are in labor, even if I am not yet needed. I can answer questions and make suggestions over the phone. We will decide if I should come right then or wait for further change. I usually need at least approx. one hour to get to you from the time you ask me to come. We will also decide where to meet – at your home, the hospital or birth center. Except for extraordinary circumstances, I will remain with you throughout labor and birth.
I usually remain with you for a minimum of one hour after the birth, until you are comfortable and your family is ready for quiet time together. I can also assist you with the initial breastfeeding, if necessary. I am available to answer questions about birth or your baby and would like to get together with you within a few weeks to see how you and the baby are doing, to review the birth, and to get feedback from you about my role.
A Birth Doula Can
Stay by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor.
Offer support to the partner.
Help reduce negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience.
Help reduce the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans.
Help reduce the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals.
Help families experience shorter labors with fewer complications.
Help facilitate initial breastfeeding.
Facilitate communication between the laboring woman, their partner, and clinical providers.
Help to cope with the unexpected.
And so much more!
As a Doula, I Do Not
Perform clinical tasks, such as blood pressure, fetal heart checks, vaginal exams, and others. I am here to provide only emotional support and physical comfort.
Make decisions. I will help to get the information necessary to make an informed decision. I will also remind you if there is a departure from your birth plan. However, I will not make decision for you.
Speak to the staff on your behalf, I will discuss your concerns with you and suggest options, but you and your partner will speak directly to the clinical staff regarding care . This doesn't include asking for water or blankets, or things
“Birth matters… It matters because it is the way we all begin our lives outside of our source, our mother’s bodies. It’s the means from which we enter and feel our first impression of the wider world. For each mother, it is an event that shakes and shapes her into her innermost core. Woman’s perception about their bodies and the babies’ capabilities will be deeply influenced by the care they receive around the time of birth.” — Ina May Gaskin
The acceptance of doulas in maternity care is growing rapidly with the recognition for their contribution to the improved physical outcomes and emotional well-being of women and infants.
See also: Evidence Based Birth: Evidence on Doulas