A Doula Whata?

March 21, 2015

Natasha Woodard


 What is this Doula word that you are hearing these days?  Have any of your friends been talking about a doula at their birth? Are you curious what a doula does (or doesn't do)?  Why are families hiring doulas?  Are you wondering if a doula is something you may want at your birth?  Read on for some answers to your burning questions! 

First,  what is a doula? A doula is a person who is trained to assist couples during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born. There are two types of doulas, a labor doula, who provides support before, during and after the birth of the baby. There is also a postpartum doula, a postpartum doula provides support and assistance with caring for the baby after the birth.  The focus of this post will be on labor doulas.

A labor doula will help prepare a couple before the birth with education on the normal and natural process of labor. She will help them practice coping and comfort techniques to use during labor and provide continuous support during labor.  

So that all sounds nice but what does a doula actually DO?  A doula believes in your ability, a doula helps you find evidence based information, a doula educates you on the normal and natural process of labor, a doula supports your decisions, a doula is on call for you, a doula comes to your side when you need her and does not leave until the baby is born, a doula assists your birth partner, a doula helps you breathe, a doula gets you a cool washcloth for your head, a doula massages your hands, feet, back or any other part you like massaged, a doula applies counter pressure if you are experiencing back pain, a doula holds your space, a doula sets the tone for the room, a doula speaks words of encouragement, a doula does so much more. Listing all of the things a doula does requires a post all its own. The most important thing a good doula does is support you and help you achieve a satisfying birth as YOU define it. 

Now, what doesn't a doula do? A doula is not a medical person. A doula should not be doing any medical tasks such as vaginal checks, fetal monitoring, or delivering a baby.  A doula coaches and doesn't catch. A doula should not pressure you into a certain way of giving birth. A doula provides information and then supports you in your educated decisions. A doula should not be judgmental. A doula does not make decisions for you and should never speak for you. A doula should build up your confidence so you feel comfortable communicating your wishes. 

Why are more families hiring doulas? Doulas are not a new thing. As long as women have been giving birth there have been doulas. The role was usually filled by women in the family that had given birth before. When birth was moved out of the home and into the hospital, the knowledge on how to support a laboring woman became less common.  Childbirth in this country has become less mother centered and more about "managing" labor.  Women are wanting a different experience. They are wanting to feel a part of the process, whether they are choosing a natural birth or a medicated birth.  They are wanting to feel included in their birth process.  They are wanting more satisfying birth experiences. They are wanting their voices to be heard and they are hiring doulas to help achieve this.  

That leads us to the last question.  Is a doula something you want at your birth?