The word “Doula” (doo-la) is a Greek word meaning female servant. Today, the term is most commonly used to describe someone who is trained in childbirth to provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth. Doulas have been around for centuries. If you think back to the history of the pioneer days, women would call on a neighbor lady, or even a female family member or friend to come offer support and assistance while she labored and gave birth. Back in the 1950s when birth became medicalized, this nurturing, supportive person was taken out of the picture, and the laboring mother was left alone to labor. This left many mothers feeling vulnerable and unempowered. Fortunately, back in the 1980s, women began to reappear by the woman’s side to offer support to enhance their birth experience once again. It was around this time that they were given the name, doula.
A birth doula:
- Recognizes birth as a key life experience, understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of the laboring woman.
- Believes in a woman’s ability to know her body and helps her to trust that her body knows exactly what to do to birth her baby.
- Uses relaxation techniques, massage, position changes, movement and encouragement to help her labor progress more effectively.
- She advocates for the desires of the birthing couple.
- Prepares the mom and her partner for what to expect in labor and the postpartum period.
- Assists with breastfeeding
- Stays by the side of the laboring woman throughout labor and birth and early postpartum period.
- Supports you wherever you decide to give birth; in a hospital, a birth center or at home.
- Understands her role is to enhance the birth experience for you, your partner and your family. See “A Doula Makes the Difference” from Mothering Magazine.
Doulas are not medically trained and, therefore, do not perform any clinical tasks. Doulas do not make decisions for you but do support and encourage the couple to make informed decisions by educating and providing resources.