If you already know someone who has used the services of a doula, you probably have a vague idea as to what a doula does. However, you may not realize there is a long history of doula-dom.
The word (doo-la) comes from the Greek tradition and is roughly translated as “woman servant”.
A doula is a professional who provides emotional, physical, informational, and practical support for the expectant, laboring or postpartum mother. But it goes way beyond those tasks. We assist the birth partner (father or otherwise) to assist the laboring woman. We do not perform any medical tasks, but works as a team member assisting the medical team to assist the laboring woman, or educating the medical staff as to her desires. We d not speak for a woman in labor, but support her to stand-up for herself, during this very vulnerable time.
We are hired, independently, by the birth mom-to-be, or her family, and work to meet her needs and make her birthing experience as positive as possible. We assist the mom-to-be cope with labor pain, follow her idea of how she wanted her birthing experience, being flexible and adjusting to each stage of labor, whether it is with medication or not, or a planned c-section. We help her to relax, feel confident, provide hands-on, loving touch, support with laboring positions, as well as immediate care after the birth. Birth doula’s should stay after the baby is born to assist with initial breastfeeding and make sure all are satisfied and comfortable before taking their leave.
Many birth doulas also offer to type out the birth story (filled with all the details of your birthing experience), and present it at the debriefing meeting, sometime after you are settled into your new role. Birth doulas also stay in close contact with the new families, should they need any community support with breastfeeding or during the initial six-week postpartum period.
There are also Postpartum doulas that are hired to assist the new family with the transitions of bringing a newborn home. Please read the Postpartum section for more information.