A birth doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother or couple before, during and just after childbirth.
2) Where does the word ‘doula’ come from?
“Doula” is an ancient greek word meaning “woman’s servant or caregiver.” The concept of women helping women in labor has been around for centuries. In many developed countries this is still the norm, and in the United States we have begun to rediscover the benefits as well.
3) What effects does the presence of a doula have on birth outcomes?
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction
- reduces the requests for pain medication and epidurals, as well as the incidence of cesareans
When a doula is present during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression.
5) What effects does the presence of doulas have on babies?
Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.
6) How do doulas practice?
Doulas can practice as solo independent contractors, as part of an agency or collective, or as hospital employees.
7) Does a doula replace nursing staff?
No. Doulas do not replace nurses, midwives, physicians or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals.
A doula does not make decisions for clients or intervene in their clinical care. She provides informational and emotional support, while respecting a woman’s decisions.
9) Will a doula make my husband/labor partner feel unnecessary?
No, a doula is supportive to both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable.
Adapted from DONA International, www.dona.org.