I worry sometimes that because I myself have not experienced pregnancy that I might ignore the “obstetrics” portion of this blog. I hope that is not the case because many young women are dealing with pregnancy (before, during, and after). So, to try to balance this blog I am going to write about a very important topic to childbirth–doulas.  (And I dedicate this article to all my friends who have given their time to serve women as doulas.  We all thank you.)

A doula is person, most often a woman, who provides support to a woman during pregnancy, during delivery, and/or after birth.  A doula does not act in a medical capacity in supporting the mother.  Rather, it can be said that a doula’s main role is to provide informational, physical, and emotional support.  A doula is usually a person trained to be knowledgeable about the entire process of birth. The history of the word “doula” is interesting and points to its current meaning and usage.  It is an ancient Greek word that means “woman of service,” but in its historical context connoted “slave-woman.”  (For this reason, some modern-day doulas prefer to use terms such as birth companion to avoid this negative connotation.)  So, essentially, a doula is there to help the mother in any capacity but is not there to make decisions for her.

Studies show that doulas play a very positive role during delivery and in postpartum circumstances.  Births in which a doula is attendant are shorter than those births unattended by a doula and are also less-likely to use or need pain medications such as epidurals.  Babies born to mothers assisted by doulas are more likely to be born healthy, without complications, and are more likely to successfully breastfeed.  In most countries, there are no formal or legal certifications required of doulas, though most doulas do go through training and are aligned with a doula registry.  In the United States the most prominent doula registry is DONA International (Doula of North America).  From their website, you can read much more about doulas and their services and look up doulas in your area.  If you are looking for a doula, I also recommend searching the web with your town’s name and “doula” in the search phrase as many doulas have formed smaller, local organizations.

If you are more interested in seeing a doula in action both during  birth and postpartum, I recommend watching two television shows on TLC.  The first is A Baby Story.  Many of the women delivering babies in this series employ a birth doula.  The second show is Bringing Home Baby, which documents new parents bringing home their babies many of whom employ a postpartum doula who assists the mother in adjusting to motherhood often including lactation and breastfeeding advice.  Doulas are useful for all mothers, not just first time mothers.  Think about the assistance needed by a mother of more than one child when delivering a baby and bringing it home from the hospital.  In all, I think doulas are a integral tool to birth, providing valuable information often neglected by doctors and other medical staff.  They are immensely helpful after birth in helping the mother adjust to life with a new child.  If you are expecting, at least look into the idea!  Have questions, comments, or otherwise?  Please don’t be shy.


3 thoughts on “Doula

  1. Hello,

    Let me start by saying I definitely agree with you in the invaluable role that a Doula can play in a woman’s labor and delivery. It is definitely important that a woman pick the RIGHT doula not just any doula and the DONA website is a great place to start the search and the interviewing. I would have to say however that I would encourage you and your readers to actually avoid shows like A Baby Story and Brining Home Baby. Unfortunately, while these shows can be “entertaining” to some they do more harm than good when it comes to educating the public re: pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. There are many blogs hosted by doulas and many other resources that give factual information not to mention doula’s themselves who can better give information on what they do and how they do it.

  2. I strongly agree with Nicole! I should also point out that A Baby Story and Bringing Home Baby are less than completely informative and often do more harm than good. I merely mention them as instances in popular culture in which a doula is easily recognizeable. These two shows leave out a lot (and I mean a lot) of what goes into the prepartum and postpartum stages of a birth. Maybe we can cover a lot of those omissions here on the blog over time. Thanks for the input Nicole!

  3. Another excellent post! I never really knew the full range of what a doula does and am seriously considering looking into this if and when I become pregnant.

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