What is a Doula?
A Doula (Greek dialectal: servant-woman, slave) has been schooled in the process of childbirth, and then applies those teachings to real-world experiences. Birth Doulas provide informational, physical and emotional assistance to the mother before, during and immediately after the birth of the child. A Birth Doula continually reassures, comforts, encourages and respects the mother, and her family. Birth Doulas provide mothers the individualized care they need, based solely on the mother's personal circumstances and preferences.
What is the importance of having a Birth Doula present at a birth?
There have been numerous clinical studies that have shown that a Birth Doula’s presence at birth:
- has a distinct tendency to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s own childbirth experience
- reduces the need for Pitocin, forceps or vacuum extraction
- reduces requests for pain medication, epidurals, and the incidence of cesareans
I am currently compiling a list of studies to provide as PDF files on my website. Until such time as those PDFs are available, please find more information regarding studies at the DONA® website by clicking here.
What affect does a Birth Doula have on the mother at a birth?
Women report considerable satisfaction with their birth experience from the presence of a Birth Doula, both during and after childbirth. Additionally, women also make more favorable assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans, make fewer requests for medical interventions, and have less postpartum depression.
What affect does a Birth Doula have on the baby?
Studies show that babies born in the presence of a Birth Doula tend to stay in the hospital for much shorter periods, are less often admitted to special care nurseries, tend to breastfeed much easier and quicker, and they also have extra affectionate moms during the postpartum period.
How do Birth Doulas practice?
Birth Doulas practice in three different manners:
- they practice privately, and are hired directly by clients
- they practice as employees of hospitals
- they practice as volunteers in community, or hospital programs
Does a Birth Doula replace hospital nursing staff?
Absolutely not! Birth Doulas do not replace nurses, or any other medical staff. Birth 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. Birth Doulas are present to comfort and support the mother, and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals.
Does a Birth Doula make decisions on my behalf?
Generally speaking, a Birth Doula does not make decisions for their clients, nor do they or interfere with their clinical care. A Birth Doula should provide informational and emotional support, while respecting their client's decisions.
Will a Birth Doula make my partner feel unneeded?
Absolutely not! A Birth Doula is not only supportive to the mother, but also to her partner. In fact, a Birth Doula plays a critical role in getting the partner involved in the birth to an extent that is comfortable for the partner.
You refer to yourself as a Birth Doula - is there more than one type of Doula?
Yes, there is more than one type of Doula. In fact, there are three different types of Doulas, they being Birth Doula (a.k.a. Labor Doula), Postpartum Doula and lastly, an Antepartum Doula.
Birth/Labor Doulas provide support during childbirth. More specific information on this type of Doula is found above in these Birth Doula F.A.Q., as well as the How To Hire A Doula page on this website.
Postpartum Doulas provide assistance after the baby has been born. They take care of necessary household tasks, such as: grocery shopping, meal preparation, cleaning dishes, doing laundry, or tending to older children. Essentially, Postpartum Doulas do whatever a mother needs, so that she can enjoy and care for her new baby. More on Postpartum Doulas can be found on DONA® International's website by clicking here.
Antepartum Doulas are a relatively new type of Doula. A woman may need help before the baby’s arrival, during pregnancy. Perhaps a woman is on bed rest, or she may be experiencing a difficult pregnancy. Antepartum Doulas specialize in supporting women who are facing a high-risk or difficult pregnancy. For the most part, Antepartum Doulas help mothers in the same manner as a Postpartum Doula. Being a rather new concept, finding certified Antepartum Doulas may be difficult.