A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the woman who is expecting, in labor or has recently given birth.
Many decisions need to be considered and made prior to the delivery of your baby including who will be available to help you during your labor and the baby's birth.
Midwives and doulas have been helping women in childbirth for hundreds of years. The word "midwife" comes from Old English and means "with woman." The word doula comes from Greek, and refers to a woman who personally serves another woman. This page of the website deals with doulas and a companion page deals with midwives.
A doula is also referred to as a labor companion, labor support professional, birth assistant or labor assistant. The doula's role is to help you to have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience. Studies have found that when a doula is present, women have been less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a C-section, and report having a more positive childbirth experience.
Doulas provide informational, emotional, physical and practical support in all types of pregnancy and delivery situations. Most doulas are contacted a few months before the baby is due so that you and your doula can clarify what you want during labor and after the birth of your child. Doulas do not provide any type of medical care but they are knowledgeable of the medical issues of labor and delivery so they can help you in creating a realistic birth plan.
A doula can provide help and support if you are on bed rest or experiencing a high risk pregnancy. They can attend to your emotional and physical comfort to make sure labor, delivery and recovery proceed smoothly. Your doula can work as your advocate and assist in communicating with medical staff to obtain information for you to make informed decisions. Additionally, doulas are trained to offer information and support on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents.
The role of the doula is never to take the place of a significant other in labor, but to complement and enhance labor and birth process. A doula will support and encourage the significant other rather than replace them.
Finding a Doula
The most important variable is finding a qualified doula is that you feel comfortable with, and confident in, your doula. Most doulas do not charge for a free initial consultation and interview, so you can take the time to interview a couple until you find the one that meets your needs. Click on the following link to Find a Doula in your area.
American Pregnancy: Having a doula
American Pregnancy: Finding a Doula in Your Area
Doulas of North America (DONA)
Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA)
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