Before answering the question above, you probably need to understand what a doula is and exactly why you want to consider one.
Once you find out you are expecting, you are faced with a multitude of decisions:
- Should you plan to give birth at home? At a Birthing center? At a traditional hospital?
- Will you choose natural childbirth? What method will you use?Bradley? Lamaze? Hypnobabies?
- Will you receive care from an OB-GYN? A midwife? Both?
- What about a doula?
Wait a minute – there it is again. So, what exactly IS a doula?
For the record, a doula is not simply another name for midwife. Each of these assist you before, during and after childbirth, but each has a distinct role. As a certified healthcare professional, a midwife’s primary focus is on preparing for and safely delivering your baby. A doula is also certified. But a doula’s primary focus is on YOU!
The word “doula” comes from the Greek language and actually means “woman’s servant.” So, a doula serves you by providing specific emotional and physical support continuously throughout your labor and birth. Having such support during this time can have positive results. Various clinical studies show that when a doula is present at birth:
- Women’s labors are shorter with fewer complications
- Women have less need for manual interference (like forceps)
- Women’s requests for pain meds and epidurals are reduced
- Women’s positive feelings of the birth experience are increased
A doula does not replace a midwife or other medical personnel. But, doulas can assist in communication between you and the medical professionals. By helping you follow you chosen birth plan, providing physical comfort measures (think back rubs and pillow positioning) and emotional support (think encouraging words and gentle coaching), a doula helps you maintain your stamina and ensure you have a positive birth experience.
You may be thinking, “But, my partner plans to be my labor coach!” A doula will never replace your partner. A doula will be encouraging and supportive of your partner’s activities, efforts and involvement, as well.
While doulas always play an important part during labor, some doulas go even further and continue support into the postpartum period. Postpartum doulas will assist you, your partner and your family in meeting your needs after your baby is born.
In addition to ensuring you are physically comfortable, the postpartum doula will share educational information on baby care and breastfeeding. Again, the doula’s focus in on you and being sure you, your partner and your family are gaining confidence in your ability to care for and enjoy your baby. So, doula or don’t ya?
More information on doulas can be found on the DONA (Doulas of North America) International website.
Photo: Jennifer Bayers – pixabay