What Does a Doula Do?
Keep Calm and Call the Doula
Let’s start with a little history of birth. For hundreds of years, women have been the main support through another woman’s birth. Experienced female birth workers, a.k.a doulas and midwives delivered babies (mostly at home) all around the world. Today – the number of midwives used has declined dramatically, with over 90% of births attended by physicians and in a hospital. The choice of where and whom you want handling your pregnancy and birth is, of course, a very personal decision and there is never a “right” or “wrong” choice – as long as the parents are secure with their care.
Are Doula’s the same as Midwives?
No – they are not the same, which is why many couples still hire a doula for their birth (and even after) alongside their midwives or physicians. While Obstetrician-gynecologists are medical doctors (MDs) who have completed medical school, midwives have not. They are trained with a different philosophy – focusing on whole-body health and prevention (although they are extremely medically knowledgeable in pregnancy, labor, and delivery). They are strong advocates in supporting the mother to make informed decisions with their pregnancy and birth.
Three Types of Midwives:
- Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): who is trained both as a nurse and has gone onto graduate-level training as a midwife.
- Midwife (CM) Certified: they do not hold a nursing degree, but some have had graduate level midwifery training and do take the same certification as CNMs.
- Certified Professional Midwife (CPM): they obtain their certification from a different governing body versus a CM and CNM. They may or may not hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree. You may find a lot of CPM’s attending births alongside a CNM or CM.
This brings us to a doula – your birth room and postpartum angels on earth! Unlike a midwife – doulas are not medically trained like a CNM. Although – more and more nurses are retiring to do doula care. Regardless, they have a different training and job with mothers and provide non-medical care. Their main focus is providing relief for the mom through gentle physical support such as massages during labor and emotional and mental support – helping the mom to feel safe and secure. Fact is, moms who have a doula during birth and in the postpartum period, have far better positive outcomes.
The most important thing is finding the right doula that will fit your needs – check out this questionnaire you can bring with you when interviewing doulas. There are two different kinds of doulas: birth doula and postpartum doula and each have had their own training.
Affirmation: I trust my instincts. I trust the wisdom of my body. I believe I can, so I will.
A birth doula has one main objective: to make sure mom and dad have a positive and safe birth experience – even if that means intervention or a C-section. They are there to help you through every minute of it and feel empowered as changes may occur. Your doula will usually meet with you twice before birth, if not more, to go over what you hope for, your fears and thoughts and create a birth plan. She will educate you on many parts of the labor experience, so by the time labor starts, you feel more in control, educated and supported.
A birth doula’s main jobs during labor:
- Breathing techniques
- Relaxation techniques
- Laboring positions
- Massage for comfort
- Making sure you eat and drink enough
- Advocate for you
- Emotional and mental support for both mom and dad
A postpartum doula is there to help a new family in those first days or weeks after bringing the baby home. Having a postpartum doula has shown through research that mom and dad have a much smoother and easier transition into parenthood with a doula there to ensure them, educate them and support them however they need in those early weeks. She is essentially there to “mother the mother”. A postpartum doula can either do daytime hours or overnight hours, whichever the parents decide they need.
A postpartum doula’s main jobs:
- Infant care: Answering all basic care needs and breastfeeding
- Help you rest and recharge – often holding your newborn for you
- Practical Help: Laundry, dishes, housework, cooking, errands
- Emotional Support: Mother the new mother – nurturing her so she can nurture her precious new baby. Listening to her worries, fears and being there so she can express her frustrations.
You can find your doula through searching online in your area through the certifying organizations such as:
Also – check with your OB or midwife as they might have a referral list. Doula’s range in price and can be costly, however, the care they can provide is worth it! Visit Lindsay’s blog for more info about Doulas, including special concerns for mamas with high-risk pregnancies.
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Lindsay is an author, motivational speaker, birth psychology and maternity health specialist & natural mommy blogger for Our Green House.
Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.
A doula would’ve been a wonderful addition to my birth and postpartum experience with my last baby