Your Questions Answered: What Is a Doula?

Q

I've heard a lot about doulas, but I don't really know what they do and how they can help me during birth -- can you provide more information?

A

A doula is a care provider who understands and trusts the normal process of birth. She provides care from the prenatal period through to postpartum. She provides emotional support, such as encouragement, reassurance, and continuous presence for a mom and her partner. She also offers physical support during labor and birth, such as comfort and relaxation measures, and suggesting different positions to facilitate labor. A doula is also a great resource for helping mom and her partner to understand medical tasks, so mom and her partner can make informed decisions.A doula can be very helpful for you and your partner during your birth experience. The power of labor may surprise you and your partner, so it is helpful to have a knowledgeable person like a doula to reassure you that what is happening is normal. A doula's presence can relieve anxiety for you and your partner so you can stay home longer and transition easier to your birth place. A doula also can sense when a laboring you need to change positions or when you need a comforting touch. She may also sense when it is beneficial for you to take a walk or a relaxing shower. When you are comfortable and feels well supported by your birth team, your labor may progress more quickly and feel easier.Doulas stay with you through the whole process of labor and birth and through early postpartum. She also helps guide you through your first breastfeeding. Doulas do not perform any medical tasks, but she will help you understand and be able to explain any medical interventions that may arise. Doulas are there for your continuous emotional and physical support.Studies have found that with continuous support, like that offered by a doula, laboring women are less likely to have:
  • Cesarean surgery
  • Assisted delivery with vacuum or forceps
  • Epidural or need for other pain medication
  • Dissatisfaction or negative feelings about their childbirth experience
For more information or how to find a Doula for your birth, visit www.dona.org or www.childbirth.org.
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