The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

Birth Doula

Recognizes

birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life

Understands

the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor

Assists

the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth

Allows

the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level

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Stays

with the woman throughout the labor

Provides

emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions

Perceives

her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience

Facilitates

communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers

Postpartum Doula

Offers

education, companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum fourth trimester

Assists

with newborn care and family adjustment

Provides

appropriate referrals when necessary

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Supports

the mother and offers practical assistance with breastfeeding

Offers

evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents

Why use a Doula?

Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.

During Labor

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth

•tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
•reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
•reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
•reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals

Postpartum

Research shows parents who receive support can:

•Feel more secure and cared for
•Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
•Have greater success with breastfeeding and have greater self-confidence
•Have less postpartum depression and lower incidence of abuse

FAQs

Does a doula replace nursing staff?

No. Doulas do not replace nurses or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals./p>

Will a doula make my partner feel unnecessary?

No, a doula is supportive to both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable.

Why are doulas so effective?

There are 3 main reasons why we think doulas are so effective. The first reason is the “harsh environment” theory. In most developed countries, ever since birth moved out of the home and into the hospital, women have been giving birth in conditions that can often be described as harsh. In the hospital, laboring women are frequently submitted to institutional routines, high intervention rates, personnel who are strangers, lack of privacy, bright lighting, and needles. Most of us would have a hard time dealing with these conditions when we’re feeling our best. But women in labor to deal with these harsh conditions when they are in their most vulnerable state. These harsh conditions may slow down a woman’s labor and decrease the woman’s self-confidence. It is thought that a doula “buffers” this harsh environment by providing continuous support and companionship which promotes the mother’s self-esteem (Hofmeyr, Nikodem et al. 1991).The third reason that doulas are effective is because doulas are a form of pain relief (Hofmeyr, 1991). With continuous support, women are less likely to request epidurals or pain medication (Hodnett, 2011). Why are women with doulas less likely to request pain medications? Well, women are less likely to request pain medications when they have a doula because they just don’t need an epidural as much! Women who have a doula are statistically more likely to feel less pain when a doula is present. Furthermore, by avoiding epidural anesthesia, women may avoid many medical interventions that often go along with an epidural, including Pitocin augmentation and continuous electronic fetal monitoring (Caton, Corry et al. 2002).

What doulas do NOT do?

•Doulas are NOT medical professionals
•They do not perform clinical tasks such as vaginal exams or fetal heart monitoring
•They do not give medical advice or diagnose conditions
•They do not judge you for decisions that you make
•They do not let their personal values or biases get in the way of caring for you
•They do not take over the role of your husband or partner


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