The role of a doula (Greek word meaning “woman’s servant”) is to help a woman have a healthy, safe, and satisfying birth experience. There is not necessarily a particular birth method that is suitable for attendance by a doula; she can be present at a medication-free home birth or at a planned Cesarean section.
What Does a Doula Do?
Doulas stay with the mother at all times during labor (unless the mother prefers to be alone for periods of time), and she acts as an advocate for the laboring mother. She can also explain what is going on if the mother has questions or fears. Doulas may also provide natural pain relief and relaxation techniques to their clients.
A doula is not intended to take the place of a husband or partner who is present and wants to participate. Instead, doulas help coach and include the father as part of the experience, and can take his place by the mother’s side if he needs a break or is needed elsewhere (such as if the baby is taken to the NICU or nursery).
Some doulas will help mothers for the first week’s postpartum. They really do act as a “servant” in this capacity, helping to cook, clean, and offer breastfeeding advice. This can free up the mother to focus on her newborn for a while, and allows her to rest and heal.
Doulas do not stand in for a physician or offer medical advice; but doulas can explain procedures and help the mother make informed decisions. They can also help the mother feel more at ease about the procedures she has chosen or that become necessary.
What Are the Benefits of a Doula?
Statistics indicate that doulas have very real benefits. Requests for medication and interventions such as epidurals have been shown to decrease significantly when a doula is present. In other words, she helps make your birth experience – whatever method you choose – a more positive one. Because birth is said to be so deeply connected to a woman’s psyche and heart, hiring a doula can make a lifetime of difference.
How and Where Can I Find a Doula?
A good place to start is the internet. Try typing “doulas in [your city and state]” into your search engine and see what you find. You can also call and ask about available doulas at your local birthing center, obstetrician’s office, or hospital. If you already know or have hired a midwife, you can ask her as well.
What About C-Sections?
There’s no reason why you can’t hire a doula for your scheduled C-section. And if a C-section unexpectedly becomes necessary during your labor, a doula can help you cope with this sometimes frightening turn of events. During a scheduled C-section, a doula can offer emotional support and explain what’s going on. She can help coach the mom through the surgery and the side effects of the medication, and help her recover and nurse her baby.