The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the birthing family before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
- Recognizes birth as a key experience a person will remember all their life
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a person in labor
- Assists in preparing for and carrying out birth plans
- Stays with the birthing person throughout the labor
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping obtain information needed to make an informed decision
- Facilitates communication between the laboring person, their partner and their clinical care providers
- Perceives their role as nurturing and protecting the person’s memory of the birth experience
- Allows the birthing partner to participate at their comfort level
Doulas do not:
- Replace nurses or other medical staff
- Perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care
- Make any decisions on behalf of the birthing person
Benefits of a Doula
There are complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, individuals need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need personalized care based on their circumstances and preferences.
Doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. They are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to individuals during labor and birth, and in the weeks following childbirth. Doulas offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make the childbearing person feel nurtured and cared for.
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- reduces the request for pain medication and/or epidurals
Research shows parents who receive support can:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse