A doula is a non medical professional support person that supports a mother and her partner physically and emotionally in pregnancy, in labor, and postpartum. They support all birth types; natural, medicated and cesarean.
A doula meets with the expecting couple before the birth, getting to know them and discovering what their ideal birth may look like. Together they make a birth plan to reflect the birth the mother wants. In labor, a doula will help the mother by applying comfort techniques, facilitating position changes and helping her stay active for a more productive labor. Doulas give continuous support, helping the mother stay strong and the doctor or midwife stay fresh.
The is a calming, encouraging and objective voice in the room. She helps maintain that calm atmosphere throughout labor. A doula educates the couple on how to ask the right questions if complications arise. This helps the birthing mother stand firm in her birth plan and make the best decision for her family if circumstances require plans to change.
Birth can bring forth a variety of emotions. Doulas help the expecting mothers sort through their fears about pregnancy birth or parenting. Take note they are not trained therapists, but their experience and knowledge surrounding the birth process is beneficial to change patterns of thinking, give realistic expectations and inspire confidence. At a postpartum appointment the doula is there to support the new mom, checking in on breastfeeding and supporting the new mother emotionally. She is there for mom, not just to see the new baby.
The doula does not replace or upstage the mother’s partner, they guide and assist them to support the mother even more effectively. The doula’s presence allows the partner rest if needed so the partner can support the mother sustainability. They are a valuable member of the birth team.
Often referred to as a birth coach a doula can be paralleled as a personal trainer for labor. Yes, one can put the time and work to educate themselves on best practices. However, like a personal trainer, the advantage from knowledge, experience, and one-on-one support often leads to better results and greater satisfaction.
Research has found that women who had a doula’s support in labor are:
- less likely to have a cesarean section
- less likely to request pain management drugs
- less likely to require use of forceps or vacuum extraction during vaginal delivery
- less likely to describe their birth as a negative experience
- less likely to have a baby with a low APGAR score (newborn health assessment)
- found to have shorter labors
What a doula does NOT do:
- Doulas do not provide medical services such as delivering babies, check fetal heart tones, give cervical exams or determine position and/or presentation of the baby.
- It is out of a doula’s scope of practice to give medical advice or diagnose a complication.
- A doula does not replace or overbear the partner. The mothers significant other, family member or friend is her primary birth partner, not the doula. The doula supports both of them, modeling to and assisting the birth partner, making sure they get rest as well so they can better support the mother.
- Doulas do not speak or advocate on behalf of the mother. A doula helps the mother get the right information so she can make the decisions on her own that she feels are right for her and her baby.