9 times out of 10, when I tell someone I’m a Doula, they’ll say, “Oh that’s neat! …[long pause, with a pondering expression]…okay so what is a doo-luh?” And I don’t blame them one bit. After all, it wasn’t until I myself was pregnant for the first time years ago that I discovered what a Doula is.
A Birth Doula (also called a Labor Doula) is a non-medical childbirth professional who provides a woman (and her partner) with unbiased educational, physical, and emotional support throughout pregnancy and birth.
The word Doula comes from a Greek word that means “a woman who serves.”
It’s a profession that provides mothers with unwavering support at a pivotal time in their (and their family’s) lives.
A Doula is for every kind of birth – hospital birth, birth center birth, home birth, cesarean birth, unmedicated birth, induced birth, first birth, tenth birth, and everything in between.
While a healthy baby and a healthy mom is the most important outcome, a Doula knows that it isn’t the only thing that matters – your experience matters. Your experience changes you and affects the rest of your life. Doulas don’t take that precious value lightly, they want your experience to be as positive as possible through genuine support, respect, and compassionate, professional care.
So let’s get to the details of what hiring a Doula will entail for you.
The services provided by a Birth Doula include, but are not limited to;
- on-call support during your pregnancy, from the moment the contract is signed (for questions, concerns, resources, etc. on anything pregnancy-, birth-, baby-, and family-related).
- prenatal consults to discuss how you are doing (physically and emotionally), preparation and education for birth so you have a thorough understanding of all options for your care, the desires you and your partner have for your birth, addressing any reservations you may have, and a bit on preparing for postpartum/recovery/life with a newborn.
- once labor is here, she provides input on helping you make your decision about when to go to the hospital/birth center (if not a home birth, of course).
- face-to-face support (physical, emotional, educational support) once you choose to ask the Doula to be present, plus phone contact about your labor as soon as it begins (or when your labor may be beginning – it can be hard to know!). This means that someone who already knows you and your desires for this birth will be with you throughout your labor.
- any and all support that is needed during labor. Examples include massage, counter-pressure, compresses, adjusting the physical environment to your preferences, a hand to hold/squeeze, guiding relaxation and breath during contractions, verbal reminders of affirmations that personally resonate with you (as discussed at prenatal consults), encouraging you, etc. Every support measure is tailored to meet the needs and desires of each individual mother and family.
- a guide for your partner in supporting you, which is key, because your doula will never “replace” your primary birth partner. Each support person is part of your care team and your partner’s role is of utmost importance to your Doula.
- full explanations of all potential benefits, risks, and alternatives for any options mom and partner are offered. This ensures you have all of the information you need so you can make the best decisions for you and your baby. Whatever your decision is, your Doula will support you in it.
- 1-2 hours of support after birth, to hold space for your family, provide support for feeding, ensure you are as comfortable as possible, etc.
- a postpartum follow-up visit in your home within 10 days following baby’s birth, plus phone contact in the days between birth and this visit.