What is a Birth Doula?
“Doula” is a Greek word for a woman (traditionally a friend or relative) who helps other women during transitions or illnesses. In America today, families are much more spread out geographically and community support is often inadequate during the perinatal and postpartum periods. The word “doula” has come to mean a woman who professionally provides informational, emotional and physical support during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. A doula’s support is dynamic and ultimately designed around the needs of the families they serve.
Doulas are trained and experienced in childbirth, although they may not have given birth themselves. The doula’s role is to provide physical, emotional and informational support to women and their partners prenatally, during labor and during the postpartum period.
Prenatally the doula assists families in gathering information about their birth and labor choices so that they can consider their preferences. Doulas support and empower families to educate themselves in order to become active partners in their pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. During the birth, doulas offer help and advice in comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. Doulas also assist families in gathering information about the course of their labor and their options. Perhaps the most crucial role of the doula is providing continuous emotional reassurance and comfort.
When a doula is present, some women feel less need for pain medications, or may postpone them until later in labor; however, many women choose or need pharmacological pain relief. It is not the role of the doula to discourage the mother from her choices. The doula helps her become informed about various options, including risks, benefits and accompanying precautions or interventions for safety. Doulas can maximize the benefits of pain medications while minimizing their undesirable side effects.
Doulas specialize in non-medical skills and do not perform clinical tasks, such as vaginal exams or fetal heart rate monitoring. Doulas do not diagnose medical conditions, offer second opinions, or give medical advice. Most importantly, doulas do not make decisions for their clients; they do not project their own values and goals onto the laboring woman. The doula’s goal is to help the woman have a safe and satisfying childbirth as the woman defines it.
If you would like to connect with one of our birth doulas and discuss their services, please contact them individually via email or on their personal website.