What is a doula?
The Greek word doula means “woman’s servant,” and often referred to the most important female servant in an ancient Grecian household, who likely assisted the lady of the house in labor.
- A birth doula is a supportive companion, specially trained, to provide physical and emotional support during labor and birth.
- A doula provides continuous support, beginning during early or active labor, through birth, and for approximately two hours following birth. The doula offers help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning, and massage. She also assists families with gathering information about the course of labor and their options. Her most critical role is providing continuous emotional reassurance and comfort.
- Doulas attend home births and hospital births; medicated births and unmedicated births, with women whose care is being overseen by doctors or midwives. Doulas may be the only support person for the mother, or may be part of a labor support team including mom’s partner, friend(s), and/or family members.
- Doulas specialize in mon-medical skills, and do not perform clinical tasks, or diagnose medical conditions.
- Doulas do not make decisions for their clients. Their goal is to provide the support and information needed to help the birthing mother have a safe and satisfying birth as the mother defines it.
- There are also postpartum doulas, who provide support after the baby is born. They have knowledge about postpartum recovery, breastfeeding, and newborn care. Their services vary depending on your needs, and might involve anything from a one-time visit for information and advice, to providing overnight care every night for a month.
Proven Benefits of Doula Care
Decreased medical interventions in labor:
- Reduces need for cesarean
- Reduces the need for forceps or vacuum extractor
- Reduces the use of pain medication
- Reduces dissatisfaction with birth
- Reduces length of labor
Six weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were:
- Less anxious and depressed
- Had more confidence with baby
- More satisfied with partner
- More likely to be breastfeeding
The time honored tradition of the doula suggests that her assistance truly makes labor a better experience for most who utilize her services. As a whole, the birth experience is more satisfying for the birthing mother who chooses to use a doula. It is proven that overall, doula assisted births have shorter labor durations, with fewer complications and medical interventions. Birthing mothers have less need for pain medication and shorter hospital stays, and breastfeeding is more successful.