A doula provides non-medical assistance before, during and after childbirth. The doula should not be confused with the midwife, as a licensed midwife provides medical care and physically assists with the delivery.
The role of a doula varies but may include the following:
Help create a birth plan
Answer questions about the pregnancy and birth
Ensure the birth mother feels safe and comfortable
Provide education on options for pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum
Provide emotional and physical support to the birth mother
Provide support for the birth mother’s partner
Liaison between the birth mother and the medical team
Uphold the birth mother’s plan for labor and delivery (inasmuch as the plan does not place the mother or baby at risk)
Provide non medical pain and stress relief such as massage, assistance in a birth pool, supporting posture, etc
Provide emotional support post-pregnancy
Assist in helping mother and baby adjust to breastfeeding
Ensure the mother is fed, hydrated and receives adequate rest
Educates the partner and family on how to care for the mother and newborn
The benefits of hiring a doula are well documented. Women who hire doulas typically report a more positive birth experience, are less likely to need pain medications, are less likely to require medical interventions such as cesarean delivery, and report feeling more confident and in control during pregnancy and birth.
Stephanie, Mary, and Katy
This feeling of support and confidence is very important for all pregnant women, but especially necessary for first-time moms. The questions and fear many women have with their first pregnancy are compounded by the plethora of advice from well-meaning friends and family. A woman seeking a midwife may be asked, “why on earth would you want to give birth at home?” However, a woman seeking a medically assisted birth and plans on pain relief is often chided with “you know, a natural birth at home is your best option.” Overworked doctors may not have time to answer the hundreds of questions new moms have and after being examined, weighed and measured, the woman is often out the door of the medical office before she has a chance to ask, “is what I’m experiencing or feeling normal?” Some birth moms are shy and do not feel comfortable asking their friends, partners or family about the more intimate details of their pregnancy while others wish they just had a woman they could confide in that would provide them with the help, answers and support they need. That help, education and support is the role of the doula.
The doula helps you have the birth experience you want to have. Unless there is a medical reason that puts you or your baby at risk, she will help you develop the birth plan that best suits your needs and situation. Whether you plan for a natural birth, a medically assisted birth or a cesarean, she is on hand to explain what to expect, to support you if others question your decisions and to ensure the medical team follows your plan as closely as possible during labor and delivery. If the birth mom chooses to breast feed, she is on hand to help mom and baby adjust to that all-important first feeding. If problems with nursing develop during the first few days of postpartum, she assesses the issue and provides suggestions. Birth mothers are tired and often overwhelmed after birth. The stress of endless feedings and sleepless nights quickly take a toll on the physical and mental health. This is why the doula makes sure the mother has the support she needs postpartum and talks to the partner and/or family of the importance of supporting the birth mother during this very sensitive time.
Brining a baby into the world can be a wonderful experience, but for many women, it is also an experience plagued with doubt and fear. As the emotions of the mother have a lasting effect on the mother and baby during and after pregnancy, the mother needs as much physical, emotional and nurturing support as possible. The doula is trained to specifically provide this support to ensure both mom and baby get the nurturing they need.