All About Doulas: Who They Are, What They Do & Why We Love Them
“It takes a village to raise a child.” As a mother or a soon-to-be first time mom, you’ve probably heard this African proverb countless times. Many women are lucky to be emotionally supported and cared for by others throughout their motherhood journey. And when doulas come into the picture, that care and support for a new mother begins at childbirth.
What is a doula?
The word “doula” is a modern Greek term meaning “woman who serves” or “women’s servant.” A doula’s primary job is to support, direct, and educate a mother during childbirth. Doulas will work with a family during the pregnancy, at the time of birth, or immediately after the birth.
Though their job is non-medical and focused on emotional support, doulas are trained and certified professionals, from organizations such as the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) or the National Association of Doulas (DONA).
What does a doula do?
Depending on what an expecting mother needs, she may hire a birth doula or a postpartum doula. A birth doula provides physical and emotional support to both the mother and the birth partner during labor. Birth doulas do not replace or overshadow the birth partner’s involvement during labor, which is a misconception. A birth doula may help the mother use breathing techniques, comfort her with touch, or help create a warm and nurturing environment during this stressful event. This is all planned a few months before the baby’s due date. A birth doula will provide guidance to soon-to-be mothers by helping create a birth plan or answering her questions.
After a mother has given birth, she may hire a postpartum doula for further emotional support and newborn care education. The transition into motherhood can be an overwhelming and emotionally charged time, and postpartum doulas can help ease new parents into their new lifestyle. Postpartum doulas can also offer practical advice on breastfeeding, baby sleep, self-care, and normal newborn behavior.
Why we love doulas
Research has shown that mothers supported by doulas experience a variety of benefits. With the support of a doula, women were less likely to require a cesarean, less likely to need instruments to aid in delivery, and less likely to opt for epidural use. The use of a doula can also minimize fear and anxiety, may reduce postpartum depression, and improve the overall birth experience as good.
Benefits aren’t limited to the mother, either. Doula support generally leads to better birth outcomes: mothers are two times less likely to experience complications, four times less likely to have a low birth weight baby, and significantly more likely to initiate breastfeeding. In fact, babies delivered with the help from a doula tend to have better APGAR scores, which measures the overall well being of a newborn immediately after birth.
Finding a doula
During childbirth, some mothers prefer the support of their birth partner, immediate family, their OB/GYN, and that’s it. And that’s okay! If you don’t think you’re the type of mother who needs a birth doula, then that’s your choice. Remember, a doula is there to support you.
If you’re considering finding a birth doula or postpartum doula, remember to find someone you and your partner feel comfortable with. Your doula will be present during an intimate, vulnerable, and life-changing event, so you’ll want someone who makes you feel good.
Have more questions about doulas? The Maternal Instincts team can give you guidance and support. Give us a call, or schedule a time for a short consultation over the phone.