The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves”. It is now used to refer to a woman, experienced in childbirth, who provides advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and childbirth.
A labor and birth doula comes alongside a woman as she prepares to do the amazing work of bringing forth life. This time is full of excitement but can also come with apprehension, uncertainty and so much change. Prior to birth, the doula meets with the family, getting to know them, and learning how best they can support them during this life changing time. Time is spent talking about their hopes for the birth and learning what is important to them. A doulas role is to support the woman in the manner she wishes to birth, natural (un-medicated), with an epidural, or through a cesarean section. The doula shares with you what to expect during labor, things that can be done to lessen the intensity and ways to stay relaxed to allow your body to do the work necessary to birth a baby. A doula is there for you throughout the pregnancy through phone calls, text messages and email as well.
When labor begins and mom needs the support, the doula comes to her side. This may be while laboring at home or meeting them at the hospital. The doula then remains a constant during the whole process, offering encouraging words and physical support. Often, reminders that “you can do this”, “your body is doing exactly what it needs to do”, gives the mom the knowledge and peace to continue. Physical support in the area of massage, touch, gentle reminders to relax, can help a woman to let go of tension so that her body can do the most effective work, while relieving the intensity of contractions. The doula then remains with the family through the birth, assisting with breastfeeding and helping within those first hours as they settle into their new role. The doula then follows up with the new family, in a home visit within the week after birth.
A postpartum doula comes into the home, during that fourth trimester, to help with the adjustment period of adding a baby to the family. They assist with breastfeeding and overcoming any obstacles that may be interfering. For new moms, often the knowledge that comes from a doula, in infant care, is what they need to feel secure in parenting. The doula offers minor house support in the terms of cooking, light housekeeping so that the mom is able to relax and bond with her baby without worrying about her home. The doula allows mom to nap, shower, and just enjoy nurturing this new life.
A doula’s role is not to take the place of a partner, but allows the partner to participate at their level of comfort. The doula is an invaluable asset to the birth team. Together, the birth team, they work to provide a beautiful, memorable birth.