What is a Birth Doula?

 The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek meaning “woman who serves”.  Today it has a new meaning, “ A woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after childbirth.”  A short version would be, “mothering the mother”.

Research studies have found that when doulas attend births, labor is shorter, there are fewer complications, and there is less need for oxytocin to speed labor, for forceps or vacuum extractor deliveries, and for pain medications, epidurals, or cesarean deliveries.  Babies are also healthier and they breast feed more easily.

A birth doula…

  •  Recognizes childbirth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all her life.
  •  Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor.
  •  Assists the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plans for the birth.
  •  Stays by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor.
  •  Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make good decisions.
  •  Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and clinical care providers.
  •  Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of her birth experience.

What doulas DO NOT DO:

  • Does NOT perform clinical tasks, such as blood pressure, fetal heart checks, or vaginal exams.
  • Does NOT make decisions for you.  She will help you get the information necessary to make an informed decision.
  • Does NOT speak to the staff instead of you regarding matters where decisions are being made.  She will discuss your concerns with you and suggest options, but you or your partner will speak on your behalf to the clinical staff.
  • Does NOT prevent you from obtaining pain medication, if that is what you desire.

            A most important aspect of emotional support in childbirth may be the most unexpected internalized one—that of the calm, nurturing, accepting, and holding model provided for the parents.  Maternal care needs modeling; each generation benefits from the care received by the earlier one.

A mother of three-month-old twins recently told us about how a doula’s care of her during labor has affected her care of her babies.  When her labor was difficult, the doula consistently remained calm and caring.  Now when her twins are upset, this mother finds herself staying calm, leaning on the example given by her doula.  She commented, “I became aware that the way she was with me during labor is the way I am with the twins when they become upset, instead of freaking out and trying many things.  They are able to calm down because I remain calm. In the past I would have been too worried about how to manage.  It’s like a contagious calm instead of a contagious anxiety.”

We believe emotional support is an essential ingredient for every laboring woman.  It is needed to enhance not only the mother’s physical and emotional health during childbirth but also the special relationship that ties the parents to each other and to their infant.

Bonding, Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence”. M. Klaus, M.D., J. Kennell,  M.D. Klaus, Phyllis, C.S.W., M.F.C.C. Pg. 41-42 Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. 1995

Over the years of doula work, I have been able to help parents achieve their goals.  Often times women do not feel empowered to request specific needs to practitioners.  When a woman does not wish pain medication, she should not be constantly questioned if she needs it.  Moving in labor often helps the baby decend, so freedom of movement should be supported unless there is a medical reason.  Some facilities allow the woman to eat, but other facitilies do not allow the woman to eat in labor.  Being familiar with these types of questions help the family make their wishes known for their birth.   Even if circumstances dictate that changes need to be made, when the family is included in the decision making, they feel more satisfied with the birth.

For more information and research on doulas: www.cappa.net

Fees up to $1500, depending on services.  Sliding scale.  Placenta Encapsulation available.