What is a Doula?
Doula is a Greek word for “woman’s servant.”
Birth Doulas (aka Labor Support Doulas)
A birth doula is a supportive companion professionally 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 2 hours following the 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 non-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. The rest of the information on this site is about birth doulas. To find out more about postpartum doulas, go to: www.naps-doulas.org or www.birthrootsdoulas.com/postpartum1.htm
Proven Benefits of Doula Care
Decreased medical intervention in labor*:
Reduces need for cesarean by 26%
Reduces the need for forceps or vacuum extractor by 41%
Reduces use of pain medication by 28%
Reduces dissatisfaction with birth by 33%
Reduces length of labor
6 weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were:
Less anxious and depressed
Had more confidence with baby
More satisfied w/ partner
More likely to be breastfeeding
*These statistics appear in Hodnett E, Gates S, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003. Issue 3, Art. No. CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.
For more about the research, see http://www.dona.org/publications/position_paper_birth.php
The Doula Guide to Birth. Word PDF This guide summarizes all the information I teach in a childbirth education series, and most of the information I teach to my doula clients in a short, concise format. Also known as “Everything you ever wanted to know about pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum in 8 pages or less.”
Dads and doulas: how an expectant dad and a doula work together to support a laboring mom