What is a Birth Doula?
The word “doula” is a Greek word meaning “a woman servant”. For centuries women have been helping other women in labor. Before doula emerged as a separate profession, her role usually played a woman who has already had children of her own and therefore, had experience in labor (especially natural birth) and breastfeeding. These friendly mothers would encourage the laboring woman, massage her, hold her hand, take care of her older children and even her husband if need be, since it is very common for the father or older siblings to be present in the setting of natural labor. After the baby was born, they would provide breastfeeding support, help with recovery and ease her into motherhood.
Every new mother knows how daunting and stressful a pregnancy and postpartum period can be without skilled outside help. So, no wonder that nowadays doulas exist as professionally trained and experienced helpers indispensable for new moms. Also known as labor support doulas, they provide continuous informational, emotional and physical support before, during and immediately after birth, or provide practical and emotional support during postpartum period. Studies show that the presence of a doula can cut down cesarean rates, reduce the need of medical interventions and overall increase the chance of natural labor. Women who use doulas usually have shorter, less painful labors, bond better with their newborns, recover faster after birth and breastfeed more easily. Read more on the benefits of having a doula here.
A doula is also a very important and skillful mediator between the laboring woman and her husband and the medical team.
Very often, fully immersed in the labor process, the parents cannot adequately communicate with the medical team and fully estimate the consequences of all the medical interventions suggested to them. A birth doula, being familiar with different medical procedures and interventions as well as with the mother’s birth plan and of course, having her interests at heart, can successfully carry out the communication between the parents and the medical professionals without interrupting the labor process. Some parents describe a doula is an invisible person who knows when to step into action and ease the pain or protect the interests of the mother and the baby and vanish into the background when necessary. Regardless of where your birth takes places, at home, a birthing center or a hospital, a doula can offer her knowledge in the physiology of birth and breastfeeding, relaxation and breathing techniques, various birthing positions and kind of words of encouragement.