The word doula means, â€œwomenâ€™s servantâ€. It is traditionally a woman that gives a mom support during labor and delivery â€“ although some doulas offer prenatal and postpartum support as well.
A doula may work with either a doctor or a midwife, and is usually able to be a part of the birth team in hospitals. Although she is there to support the mother, she isnâ€™t a replacement for the partner – more of an enhancement.
Specifically, a doula may give the laboring mother a massage, use reflexology, make suggestions for more comfortable positions, and supply information and encouragement.
If there is need for medical intervention, such as a cesarean, the doula can help the parents understand the need and prepare them for what will be happening in the operating room. She may also stay during the surgery to comfort and reassure the mother, as well as keeping her up to speed on what is happening on the other side of the sheet. At all times the doula is the advocate for the mother and a support for both parents.
After the birth she may help with any questions, breastfeeding advice, and practical support that may be needed.
Some studies have shown that having a doula decreased the instances of cesarean by about 50%. Labor time is reduced by about 25% and medical intervention such as oxytocin and epidurals are reduced by up to 60%.
Should you have a doula present at your birth?
If this is your first baby a doula can bring reassurance to both you and your partner. You will have someone there to remind doctors of your birth plan and to step in when your partner forgets what a cleansing breath is.
Because you have that reassurance, you may be more relaxed and that is important during labor and delivery. She can answer questions as they come up and explain in detail what is happening with your body.
If you are having a homebirth, the doula will assist your partner to make you comfortable, provide extra hands for the midwife, and perhaps prepare small snacks as you need them. She will stay after the birth to make sure that your breastfeeding experience is successful and that you are resting
Whether you have a home or hospital birth, the doula will most likely check in with you both in person and by phone over the following few weeks. Some doulas specialize in prenatal support. They are extremely helpful if you have to be on bed rest, offering emotional support, information and various types of help depending on the doula.Â Others primarily work with you in the weeks after the birth, helping with baby care, answering questions and easing you over any rough spots.
If you plan on hiring a doula, do your homework. Get references from friends, your midwife, or the hospital you plan working with. Talk to several doulas and ask plenty of questions. You donâ€™t want a personality that overpowers you but one that you feel reassured and safe with.
If you had a doula, what was the experience like for you?
photo credit: The Lawleys