What Is a Doula And What Does a Doula Do?
What Is a Doula?
A doula is a trained childbirth professional who offers parents physical, emotional, and informational support before, during, and after delivery. A doula does not necessarily have medical training. While no formal licensing is required, many doulas choose training and certification from organizations overseeing doula training programs, such as DONA International™ and the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA).
What Are The Different Types Of Doulas?
Doulas can help with every part of the pregnancy journey from conception through the “fourth trimester” (12 weeks after having your baby). Some doula’s services are intended to help every step of the way, while others specialize in one aspect of pregnancy, such as fertility, birth, or the postpartum period.
- Birth doula: Also referred to as a labor support companion, a birth doula is there for you during your pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
- Antepartum doula: An antepartum doula provides physical and emotional support to the mother-to-be who experiences medical or psychological issues anytime during the pregnancy.
- Postpartum doula: In the weeks or months following the delivery, a postpartum doula supports new mothers and parents as they recover from labor, adjust to life with a newborn, and start breastfeeding.
- Fertility doula: A fertility doula can help people and couples through the conception process, especially those who are having trouble conceiving or are going through fertility treatments.
- Full-spectrum doula: A full spectrum doula offers support during the various forms and stages of the pregnancy experience, tailoring their approach based on each client’s unique circumstances – from preconception, to birth, to miscarriage, to adoption, to postpartum. In short, a full-spectrum doula provides assistance across the full spectrum of reproductive experiences.
How Can a Doula Help During Pregnancy and Delivery?
Your relationship with your doula will start long before you go into labor. You’ll have one or more “get-to-know-you” meetings during your pregnancy with your doula. They’ll learn more about you and your family, share their expertise and resources to help you prepare for your delivery, and discuss what to expect during birth.
On your delivery day, your doula will be there to support, encourage, and advocate for you. Their role is to listen and guide you through your labor and delivery. They may:
- Create a calm, comfortable environment for you to give birth
- Walk you through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises
- Support your decisions and make sure your voice is heard
- Help you with different labor positions
- Explain what the medical team is doing
- Help your partner actively support you
- Give you ice chips, drinks, and food as needed
What Are The Benefits of Having a Doula During Your Pregnancy Journey?
Several studies have compared results for women who got continuous support during labor from a staff member, doula, or person in the individual’s social network to results from care without such support:
- Increased spontaneous vaginal birth, shorter duration of labor, and breastfeeding initiation
- Decreased cesarean delivery, instrumental vaginal birth, use of any analgesia, use of regional analgesia
- Reduced preterm births
- Boosted the infant Apgar scores - the test that clinical staff use to assess infant health immediately after birth
- Led to more positive ratings from parents about their birthing experience
If you’re hoping for an unmedicated birth, your doula can help coach you through different pain management techniques, including massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, breathing exercises, and music. Many doulas are also certified lactation consultants and can guide new birthing parents as they start breastfeeding.
Doulas pride themselves on making the birth experience as positive as possible for expecting parents – whether you’re the one giving birth or not. For some, their one-on-one care and support can make all the difference. A doula may bring peace of mind if you want a cheerleader and advocate in your corner during your delivery.
I wholeheartedly believe every mother, caregiver, and family deserves support. The season of bringing a new life into the world is magical but it can be an overwhelming season for some. It is my greatest joy as a doula to show up for families, validate them, guide them, and most importantly normalize that it’s OK to ask for help. We aren’t meant to do this alone. It really does take a village and I am lucky enough to be apart of many families.
- Nina Hansen, postpartum doula supporting families in San Diego, CA.
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Please be aware: JunoDx.com and the materials and information it contains are not intended to be and do not constitute medical advice, other health advice, or diagnosis. Do not use JunoDx.com or the materials and information published at JunoDx.com as a substitute for medical care and treatment. You should always consult with a qualified physician or healthcare provider about your specific circumstances.