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What is a Birth Doula?

FREE Doula Matching through the Birth Education Center

Doula (pronounced doola) is a term used to describe a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and immediately after child birth. Women have been serving other women in childbirth for centuries and have proven that this support from another woman has positive effects on the labor process. The doula's role is simply to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience. A doula is there to give comfort, both emotional & physical, and information when needed.

Care is featured with some of her doula couples in this latest Doula Documentary by DONA International. Watch here to find out how a doula can help make your labor shorter, more comfortable and more supported for you and your birth companion.


What about my husband or Birth Companion?

A Doula's role is never meant to replace or omit the husband or Birth Companion from your birth experience. In fact, a doula is there to help enhance that experience and allow him/her to enjoy it without all the pressure.  Nowadays, it seems that companions are expected to know and remember everything they learned in the birth classes. But when it is real life and not the textbook scenarios, sometimes that information and training is hard to retrieve. With a doula as part of the Birth team, the companion can do things at his/her comfort level. Doulas can encourage the birth companion in using different comfort measures or stand in for them when they need a break. Having a doula ensures that someone is ALWAYS at your side.
 Especially when laboring in a hospital setting -  nurses need to ask a lot of questions that can be distracting while you are trying to focus. (ie. "When did she use the bathroom last? What time did she eat? When was her last position change? How much as she been drinking? How long did she sleep?" Questions they really need answers to but you haven't been keeping notes on things you normally wouldn't be thinking about.)  Having a doula frees the birth partner to just concentrate on being with his woman. A doula can keep track of all the little details and work with your care provider in giving them the answers they need to ensure the best care possible.

What are the other benefits of hiring a Doula?

A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, revealed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. When a doula was present, women were less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported having a more positive childbirth experience.

In their book, Mothering The Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth, Marshall Klaus, John Kennell, and Phyllis Klaus summarize scientific studies which have been carried out on the advantages of doula-assisted births. The evidence cited is drawn from six randomized, controlled studies.

  * Reduced the overall cesarean rate by 50%
    * Reduced the length of labor by 25%
    * Reduced oxytocin use by 40%
    * Reduced the use of pain medication by 30%
    * Reduced forceps deliveries by 40%
    * Reduced requests for epidural pain medication by 60%
    * Reduced incidences of maternal fever
    * Reduced the number of days newborns spent in NICU (neo-natal infant care unit)
    * Reduced the amount of septic workups performed on newborns
    * Resulted in higher rates of breastfeeding
    * Resulted in more positive maternal assessments of maternal confidence
    * Resulted in more positive maternal assessments of maternal and newborn health
    * Resulted in decreased rates of postpartum depression

What does a Doula do or not do?

A doula DOES - offer continual emotional support and encouragement for both you and your partner,  helps support the partner so that they can love and encourage the laboring woman, positioning suggestions during labor and birth, explanations of medical procedures, phone and email support during pregnancy, exercise and physical suggestions to make pregnancy more comfortable, help with preparation of a birth plan, massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures(ie:hypnosis, relaxation), help with breastfeeding preparation and beginnings, written record of the birth, a willingness to drop all of her personal obligations to be there for you during labor and delivery, sometimes photographs upon request and many other possibilities that vary from doula to doula.

 A doula does NOT - Speak for a couple
does NOT make any decisions on medical interventions or pain relief drugs
does NOT provide medical or clinical skills
 A doula does NOT do any medical exams or administer medicine or give medical advice+

How do I hire a Doula?

All doulas have a contract that lists their services and fees. Most doulas will interview with you for no cost or obligation and expect that you will interview a few different doulas before choosing one. Most doulas have a non-refundable deposit when you reserve her services and sign the contract as they are then blocking part of their calendar month out just for your birth. Once you have selected the doula you agree upon, you will meet to sign the contract, exchange deposit or full amount of funds depending on the doula. Some doulas work on a sliding scale, do barter or take payments. There are several organizations that a doula can certify with. Good training with a reputable organization is essential. We recommend DONA, CAPPA or TOLABOR organizations. The bottom line is that both you and your partner need to feel comfortable with the doula you choose. You may find that a woman with a lot of certifications and training doesn't mesh with you as well as someone with perhaps the same training but less experience. You really need to use your own intuition, do your research about what you want for your birth and make sure that the doula is on board and supportive of your choices. Trust that the two of you will choose the right person. You will...

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