What is a Doula?
A doula is a trained and experienced professional. Doulas provide emotional, physical, and informational support to individuals or couples before, during, and after childbirth. The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves,” in the context of childbirth, it refers to someone who offers continuous, non-medical support to birthing individuals and their families.
Doulas are not medical providers, they do not provide medical care or make medical decisions. Instead, their role is to provide various forms of support, which can include:
Doulas offer encouragement, reassurance, and comfort to the laboring person. Doulas help them manage their emotions and provide a calming presence during the birth experience.
Doulas may assist with relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, positioning suggestions, and massage to help alleviate pain and discomfort during labor. They can also guide techniques for managing labor pain without medical interventions. Doulas do not dispense medications or perform medical procedures.
Doulas provide evidence-based information and education about the birthing process, helping individuals make informed decisions about their care. They can describe various interventions and procedures, empowering the birthing person to advocate for their choices.
Doulas advocate for the birthing person’s preferences and wishes within the bounds of safety and medical necessity. They can help facilitate communication between the birthing person and medical staff.
Where do Doulas Work?
Doulas can work in various birth settings, including hospitals, birthing centers, and homes, and they support individuals and couples regardless of their chosen birthing method, whether it’s a natural birth, medicated birth, cesarean section, or other birthing options. The presence of a doula has been associated with positive outcomes in childbirth, such as reduced rates of cesarean sections, shorter labor durations, and increased satisfaction with the birth experience.
Moreover, it’s essential to note that while doulas provide valuable support during labor and birth, they do not replace the role of medical professionals, such as obstetricians, midwives, or nurses, who provide medical care and make clinical decisions during childbirth. Instead, doulas complement the care provided by the medical team, focusing on the emotional and informational aspects of the birthing process.