What is a Doula?
Doula is an ancient Greek word, meaning slave. Dana Raphael, in the book The Tender Gift, described Doula as a "title for those individuals who surround, interact with and aid the mother at any time within the perinatal period.” Because of that book the word became used in the context in which we are using it today. A doula is a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother, before during and just after childbirth. In the prenatal period, a doula can help women gain information so that they can have the power to make knowledge-based decisions rather than fear-based decisions.
Why should I use a doula?
Giving birth to a baby is much more than physical. It engages parents-to-be in a transformational experience, a key life event full of emotion and meaning. A birth doula mothers the mother, taking care of her emotional needs throughout childbirth. Furthermore, a doula provides support and suggestions for partners which can enhance their experiences of birth as well.
A good birth experience will lead to a better post-partum period by speeding recovery, easing breastfeeding and securing the satisfaction of the mother and father with one another and themselves.
Studies have shown the benefits of having birth doulas, shorter labor, a reduced need for pain medication, a reduction in Cesarean births, and improved outcomes for both mother and baby.
What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
Midwives are primary caregivers who make clinical decisions and give medical advice. Doulas are neither medically trained nor responsible for the medical well-being of mothers or babies. They are not the primary caregivers for their clients. They will meet with you prenatally to discuss your birth plans, and talk about the benefits and risks of common hospital procedures and interventions used during childbirth and provide other information so that you can make better decisions about your care.
If my husband or partner is there with me, why should I use a doula?
While your husband or partner may be the most intimate and important person to you during labor, he or she may not have the knowledge, stamina or skills that are useful and necessary during labor and birth. It is often difficult for husbands and partners to watch a loved one experience the normal trails of childbirth. While the doula can provide all of the support herself if needed, she is also trained to help your partner or family support you better. Often the doula and your partner work together to provide the continuous support you will need. The doula does not take the place of the partner, but supplements his or her attention and care with her own knowledge and experience.
Do you expect me to labor and deliver without pain medications?
No, I will support you whether you receive medication or not. Many women find that the comfort measures used by doulas make the pain bearable, and that they don’t require pharmacological relief. During our prenatal visits, I will give you information to help you decide what you want and don’t want. I will also help you to understand why you feel pain, so that you do not also experience anxiety and suffering.