What is a Doula?Feb 22, 2021
A doula is usually a female caregiver that provides a laboring mother and her partner with continuous, nonjudgmental emotional and physical support throughout pregnancy and birth.
Here’s why doulas and birth keepers are usually hired. Because the most predictable thing about birth is unpredictability. Variations are inherent in childbirth because each human being and each birth is unique. Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. Women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences. That is where a doula comes in.
Basically, a doula is not a doctor, nurse or midwife and are not trained to make any medical decision, deliver babies or perform procedures; however, they are full of knowledge about the birth process.
In addition, a doula is a birth coach. She is a woman who mothers the mother through this rite of passage. She creates emotional “holding” where her deep wisdom, comfort and encouragement help the mom calmly and skillfully cope with labor. She offers her constant presence and personal attention without being obtrusive.
A doula may guide the mother with breathing, relaxation techniques, movement, massage and positioning. She can also make sure the woman is well hydrated by offering fluids in between waves. She can also take photos or videos if the parents want. But most of all, the doula holds space, respect and reverence for birth and hopefully views the mother as the best authority over her body, her baby and her experience.
The presence of a doula also can take the pressure off the partner so he/she can fully be present with the mother to enjoy the experience. Usually, it is difficult for partners to remain calm, objective and removed from the mother’s pain, fears and discomfort. Through the doula’s support, the partner can instead focus on his/her care, love, attention for the mother while helping, participating and engaged.
There are several studies that have proven the support of a doula has a positive effect on the entire labor and delivery process by allowing for an easier, shorter birth that has fewer complications. The most incredible statistics is that doulas help to cut labor time by up to 50%! Having a doula also reduces routine interventions and procedures like C-sections, analgesia use, augmentation drugs and epidural use. In addition, moms who work with doulas have greater satisfaction with childbirth, fewer incidences of postpartum depression, increased self-esteem, better mother and infant interaction and improved breastfeeding success. Overall, doula-supported women are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics.
Ancestrally, women gave birth surrounded by other supportive women that gave constant care, love and knowledge. Today, our society does not include this idea of a community as part of the process which has become overly medicalized and extremely clinical. Plus, oftentimes the mother’s emotional needs go ignored. As a result, many women feel isolated, traumatized and misunderstood after birth. A doula can help fill that gap by providing love and care for and to the mother.