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What is a doula and why do I need one anyway?

 What is a doula?

Doula comes from the Greek word doule (long e) meaning, “woman friend.” A doula doesn’t necessarily have medical training or make medical decisions, but she is familiar with the usual processes of childbirth. She is part of your labor support team, which typically includes your partner, the doctor (or midwife), and a nurse (who may have her hands full tending to several patients). Her job isn’t to deliver your baby but to give you her continuous attention, offering techniques to help ease the pain of labor.

What does a doula do?

Prenatally, she discusses your birth plan with you. Helps you develop a plan B so you can remain in control in case something goes wonky during the birth. She talks through your fears and concerns about labor, birth, and parenthood. She helps your partner feel prepared and ready for the big day. She teaches pain management techniques for early labor so you can feel confident in your ability to handle contractions until you are ready for her to join you.

During the process of labor a doula provides pain-relief techniques, encourages various positions for optimal fetal positioning for delivery, and offers ideas for how your partner can help support you better. She also provides perspective as to what is normal and what the effects various procedures can have on both mom and baby during delivery.

A doula provides physical, emotional, and mental support during labor, breastfeeding support, and postnatal support after the baby arrives. She is an objective support person whose job is to help mom achieve the birth she dreams of.

What doesn’t a doula do?

A doula is not a trained medical professional and, as such, does not offer medical advice, perform any medical procedure, or perform any clinical procedure. This includes, but is not limited to: fetal monitoring, checking the size of your uterus to determine growth, administering medicine (either traditional or homeopathic), or providing vaginal examines. In addition, a doula is not an advocate or an activist. She will not speak for you to your care provider. Rather, she will encourage you to find your voice to express your own preferences and opinions.

Benefits of having a doula:

According to The Doula Book, by Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus (2003), having a doula:

  • Reduces your risk of cesarean by 50%
  • Reduces the length of labor by 25%
  • Reduces the use of synthetic Oxycontin by 40%
  • Reduces the use of narcotics by 30%
  • Reduces instrumental delivery (vacuuming/forceps) by 30%
  • Reduces epidural use by 60%
  • Improves breastfeeding
  • Increases mother/baby bonding time
  • Decreases incidence of postpartum depression

How can I find a doula?

Sun State Doulas has several available right here, but there are other alternatives to seeking out your support team. You could ask friends if they have any experience with any doulas and who they would recommend. You could go online to www.findadoula.com or www.doulamatch.net and see who is available in your area. Most doulas will offer a complimentary consultation so you can ensure you’re a good fit for each other.

About the Author
Christine Santos

Christine Santos

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Owner of Sun State Doulas, Christine is passionate about pregnancy, birth, and parenting issues that affect mainstream families. She is mother to 3 girls and is an active member of the roller derby community. Her favorite quote is, "Not my body, not my baby, not my birth, not my choice."