Although many women now choose to birth in a hospital, for centuries, birth took place in a woman’s home. She was attended to and surrounded by the women in her community. The word doula is a Greek word meaning a woman who serves and serving is exactly what a doula does.
Most birth doulas start attending to families during the prenatal period. They provide emotional and informational support and may offer some form of childbirth education in group or private class settings. They may accompany a mother or a couple to prenatal visits with their care provider, recommend books to read, introduce siblings to the idea of birth and a new baby, help prepare a birth plan, assist in planning a shower or blessingway or arrange a meal train for the first weeks after the baby is born.
The majority of couples hire doulas for additional labor support. Doulas accompany the couple to their birth location and stay with them during labor and the delivery of their child. They provide emotional support, informational support, assistance with relaxation and comfort measures, try to guard the birthing space and maintain a calming atmosphere, engage the woman’s partner in the birth process as much or as little as the partner would like, and assists the couple in advocating for their birth plan and personal wishes for their birth. Doulas also help couples sort through options if a crisis emerges, providing them with evidence based information to better aid them in making an informed decision.
Doulas usually also assist in supporting breastfeeding, helping with the first few hours of life, ensuring a good latch and good positioning to encourage a good start to the breastfeeding relationship. Most doulas also visit the family in the first week or two postpartum to assist with difficulties that may crop up while breastfeeding, provide some postpartum education, and provide reassurance and emotional support. Some doulas may provide additional services in the postpartum period and often are very knowledgeable about community resources that could be helpful to the family in the postpartum period.
Doulas are a valuable resource if woman want someone who is knowledgeable about labor, birth and breastfeeding to accompany them during their pregnancy, labor and the birth of their baby.
Did YOU have a Doula or do you plan to use one?