What is a doula?

[ From DONA International. ]

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 mother 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.

A birth doula:

  • Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life.
  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor.
  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth.
  • Stays with the woman throughout the labor.
  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision.
  • Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers.
  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience.
  • Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level.

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 mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals

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