What does a Doula do?

“So, you’re a midwife, right?”

No, I am a doula…common misconception, but a big difference. These two professions are breaking more and more ground every day, but we still have to answer these questions constantly. For any of you who might be fairly new to the subject, let me help shine the light on it a bit.

Midwives are healthcare providersdoulas are more of a support person/birth coach.

Midwives can catch your babydoulas will hold your hand.

Midwives can provide routine medical care for you and babydoulas will help you understand what those procedures are and what types of questions you might want to ask.

Midwives can be employed by the hospital, medical office, or birthing centermost doulas are hired by and work for YOU.

Midwives are amazingdoulas are amazing!

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Have you ever taken a trip to somewhere unknown, foreign, or intimidating? My first trip to New York City was incredible. I was lucky to have traveled with someone who used to live there, so we had the inside scoop of the city. One day, we wanted to try out the subway system. We went to a pretty busy station and I was overwhelmed at the amount of people, signs and directions that I could go. I made a good effort to find my own way, but I ended up confused and intimidated. My friend calmly reassured me that we were fine and helped explain the system to me. He didn’t tell me what to do, but he showed me how things are done, and guided me until I felt comfortable myself.

A good doula is just like that, a friend who can help you find your way through what might feel like a foreign land.

The word doula is derived from a Greek word meaning, ‘woman who serves.’ The whole idea around a doula is to have someone that is there for the mother; Someone who is a constant source of strength, support and love. As DONA states, a doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”

How many of you have felt alone at some time during labor? Have you felt like you were being watched, ignored, not taken seriously? Have you felt like you were an onlooker to what should have been the most special day? Doulas believe that mothers have the right to experience the type of birth that they want. Doulas believe in helping our clients make informed, evidence-based decisions. We understand that there is a lot of noise and judgement out there and we will help you sift through the things that you think are important verses what others think are important.

According to DONA International, Doulas offer

  • Physical Support
    • Doulas can suggest labor positions to enhance comfort and to help labor progress. Doulas can offer light massage and other methods of touch to relieve stress, and pain. Doulas can help you stay hydrated or nourished by making sure that personal needs are met.
  • Emotional Support
    • Doulas help create a safe space for the laboring person. When a laboring mother feels safe and secure, the environment is enhanced, and labor is more likely to progress faster. Births come in many different varieties, but it is vital to pay attention to the emotions of everyone involved.
  • Partner Support
    • A doula is also there to support the birth partner(s). Whether that person is a romantic partner, mother, grandmother, sister, best friend or aunt, a doula can also provide reassurance and comfort for others. The emotional state of a birth partner can affect the birthing person, so it is important to understand their needs too.
  • Providing Evidence-Based Information
    • Doulas are trained to understand that the more educated we are, the better we can make decisions. It is very important to doulas that the birthing team understands basic procedures and options that they do have during childbirth, and after. We do not advocate for the family, but we help them understand their options and guide them to ask any questions that they need to feel comfortable about their care.

When you learn what a doula does, it is hard to think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from having a skilled doula on their team.  Dr. John H Kennell, who was a pediatrician and researcher, did a lot of work and advocacy for safe birth and mother/infant bonding. He was also one of the founders of DONA International. Dr Kennell said, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”

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There is more and more research being done now about the effects that doulas can have on an overall birth experience. In The Doula Book, a recent study showed that when a doula was present,

  • Labor was shortened by 25%.
  • Cesarean rates were reduced by 45%,
  • Synthetic oxytocin use was lowered by 40%
  • Pain medications were reduced by 30%.

A very important thing to mention is that there have been no recorded risks associated with hiring and working with a doula.

So, ask yourself…could you see a doula during your next labor? What are some ways you would picture a doula being of service? With all of the evidence, we believe that every laboring person should be able to have access to a doula’s guiding hand.

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