The Role of The Doula
“DOULA” is derived from the Greek language meaning a “woman who serves”. People have used doulas through the ages. What do doulas do exactly ? The role of the Doula is to serve a pregnant woman in a non-medical capacity. Throughout her pregnancy and after birth, a Doula provide the mom with physical and emotional support. Having a Doula can help you feel more empowered and in control of your birthing experience.
Types of Doula’s
Birth Doula – A birth doula is trained and experienced in childbirth and helps prepare the mother for birth by working with her to develop a birthing plan, educating her about the birthing process, providing her with emotional support and if desired, offering support services during and just after childbirth.
Antepartum Doula – An antepartum doula provides support to a mother who has been put on bed rest or is experiencing a high risk-pregnancy. They provide informational, emotional, physical, and practical support in circumstances that are often stressful, confusing, and emotionally draining.
Postpartum Doula – A postpartum doula offers support services and education to the mother after the birth, including lactation education, baby care education, circumcision care education, emotional support and other similar services. Postpartum doulas ensure the mother is comfortable, hydrated and well-fed so that she can enjoy caring for her baby.
Some doulas have training in more than one area and are able to serve as more than one type of doula.
What does a Doula do?
- Most doula-client relationships begin a few months before the baby is due. During this period, they develop a relationship with the expectant mom and answer her questions, address their fears and concerns, and begin to understand and help craft their birth plan.
- Doulas stay in contact with their expectant mother by phone, email and visits during the course of the pregnancy. Doulas DO NOT, SHOULD NOT and CANNOT provide any medical care. They are however, knowledgeable in many medical aspects of labor and delivery and can provide insight into the procedures and possible complications in late pregnancy or delivery.
- During the delivery, doulas are in close proximity to the mother providing support, comfort & pain-relief using breathing, relaxation, massage and laboring positions.
What else do doulas do?
- Doulas encourage and support participation from the partner making the delivery/birth an encompassing natural experience.
- A doula is a mother’s advocate, encouraging and helping her fulfill specific desires she might have for her birth. The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth, whether medically assisted, natural or cesarean.
- Doulas spend time helping mothers after the delivery in breastfeeding and encouraging bonding between the new baby and other family members.
- During the Pregnancy – Another role of the Doula is to help fulfill the non-medical needs of pregnancy. These needs relate to the emotions and feelings you may experience throughout the months of your pregnancy. She will help you make more informed decisions.
Bottom line, doulas can provide a supportive ear to you in a non-judgmental way. They can also make sure you are comfortable, fed and hydrated. Even after you give birth, she can provide support for your older children and partner fostering independence and confidence.
The father’s role when using a Doula
A doula should complement and enhance the mother and partners birthing experience. Recent trends has the husbands playing active role in the birthing process, though some prefer to enjoy the delivery without having to stand in as the labor coach.
Doulas encourage the father to use comfort techniques and guide and can step to help comfort the mother. A doula allows the father to support his partner emotionally during labor/birth and guides them in the relaxation and other techniques they learned in childbirth class.
Can a Doula be helpful in an assisted/hospital birth?
Doula’s can be beneficial during any type of birth you are planning. Many women report needing fewer interventions when they have a doula. But be aware that the primary role of the doula is to help mothers have a safe and pleasant birth–not to help them choose the type of birth.
Women deciding to have an assisted birth with a traditional doctor/hospital, can still benefit from a doula’s emotional, informational, and physical support through labor.
How can she be helpful in a cesarean?
Doulas can help mothers facing a cesarean by providing constant support and encouragement. Often a cesarean results from an unexpected situation leaving a mother feeling unprepared, disappointed, and lonely.
Developing a Birth Plan
A doula helps you to develop your birthing plan. A birthing plan is a written set of instructions that reflect your preferences while in giving birth and in labor. In this plan you can include things like:
- How you wish to manage your pain
- Your desire for little to no pain medication
- Using relaxation, massaging and/or breathing techniques to help ease pain and help you relax
- Whom do you wish to be present with you during the labor
- Would you like music? A TV? Or would you prefer a quiet environment
- Prefer bright lights or a dimmed room?
- Would you prefer to be able to move around the hospital freely or you prefer to be in bed
- In the event of a cesarean section, what directives you prefer
The list above is by no means all inclusive, it just serves to give you an idea of what a birth plan CAN look like. You can customize it to your preferences and the Doula can help you make these plans.
Can Any Pregnant Woman Use a Doula?
The answer is YES! You can have a Doula to be with you side by side throughout your pregnancy even if you are planning to have a medicated birth.
Research has shown that having a Doula:
- Can lower the likelihood of needing medication in the first place
- Decreases the length of labor by 25%
- Can mean a lower chance of having a cesarean section
- Lowers the chance of any mood disorders post-partum
Questions you should ask your potential Doula:
- What training have you had?
- Which services do you provide?
- What are your fees and how do you accept payment?
- Are you available for my due date?
- Why did you decide to become a doula?
- What is your philosophy regarding childbirth?
- Are you available to go over my birth plan before I give birth?
- What happens if for some reason you are not available at the time I give birth?
- How many births have you assisted in?
- What about any mothers transferred to the hospital?
- What indications, if any, influenced the decision to transfer the mother?
Where to find a Doula
- Word of mouth
- Ask your OBGYN
- Call the American Pregnancy Association at 1-800-672-2296 for a list of doula referrals in your area
Want to know more? Call The Birthing Center of NY (929) 888-6996. We deliver- Naturally!