What Is a Doula?

What Is a Doula?

March 1, 2016

What Is a Doula?

What Is a Doula?
Photo by @deborahglenn
What Is a Doula?

A dou-what? You’ve probably seen the word “doula” floating around pregnancy forums or perhaps your friend or sister had a doula at her birth. But what exactly is a doula?

According to DONA International (a doula-advocacy and certification organization), a birth doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support before, during and just after childbirth. Think: your buddy who just so happens to be an experienced labor coach. You can think of her as your personal labor and delivery tour guide. A doula is not a medical professional, though, and cannot offer medical advice during pregnancy or labor.

If you were going to climb Mt. Everest, you’d probably want someone with you who has climbed the mountain before. A doula, kind of like a sherpa, knows emotional and physical comfort measures for every stage of your labor. They have the calm reassurance of someone who has seen the birth process unfold numerous times. They speak medical jargon eloquently and translate for you. They can be your friend, therapist, DJ, comedian or anything else you need in labor. The doula’s goal is to make sure you are safe, supported, listened to and cared for.

Studies have shown that when doulas attend births, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. Dr. Kennell, one of the founders of DONA International, famously said, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”

Still have some questions? Let’s see if we can answer them.

What if I don’t want to have an unmedicated labor? What if I am planning to deliver at the hospital, do I need a doula? Absolutely! You do not have to have an unmedicated labor and delivery in order to benefit from doula services. The support of a doula is beneficial no matter where you plan to deliver: home, birth center or hospital. Unmedicated, medicated or cesarean births, doulas love them all.

My partner will be with me during labor. Do I still need a doula?

Yes! The purpose of a doula is not to replace the birth partner but rather to work as a team to support the mother. Doulas often support not only the mother directly but also empower partners to support the mother.

What is the difference between a doula and a midwife or doctor?

A midwife or doctor is a health-care provider while a doula is a childbirth coach. The doula’s role is emotional, informational and physical (but non-medical) support only. For example: traditionally, your doula will be the one rubbing your back, refilling your cup with ice chips and suggesting new labor positions to help you progress, while the midwife will be the one to check your blood pressure, insert an IV (if needed) and do cervical exams. The midwife or OB is the one to deliver your baby, while your doula would be there holding your legs or taking pictures. In summary, midwife/doctor = medical support, doula = emotional and physical support.

In the end, your doula can be a great asset to your birth squad, a steadfast friend in your journey into parenthood.

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