with a Doula: What You Need to Know
By Ann Grauer
no secret that doctors and nurses are overworked, particularly those
in the baby business.
if other patients, shift changes, paperwork, blood pressure checks
and fetal heart rate monitoring dont get in the way, doctors
and nurseseven midwivesmust focus on the health and
well-being of mother and baby. The emotional and physical needs
of the woman in labor come second. Sometimes they dont get
much attention at all.
while most women are surrounded by their partners, families or friends
during labor, this good intentioned group can only do so much.
where doulas come in.
have surged in popularity over the past decade. Most likely you
know someone who has worked with a doula. But if youre like
many expecting families, questions remain: What exactly is a doula?
How does a doula help? And how can you find the right doula?
doula is a woman who provides support before, during and after childbirth.
Unlike a doctor, midwife or nurse, she is not a medical practitioner.
Instead, her job is to focus entirely on the non-clinical side of
childbirth. She provides educational, emotional and physical support
for the mom.
are two kinds of doulas: birth and postpartum. Some women hire both,
and some just hire one, depending on individual needs.
labor, birth doulas provide around the clock care, comfort measures
such as breathing, relaxation, massage and positioning, and an objective,
calm perspective. They also help educate families about their options
during labor, guide partners to participate with confidence and
at their own comfort levels, and enhance communication between the
laboring mother and her medical professional. They typically meet
with the family one or two times prior to the womens due date
and are available to answer questions by phone.
doulas, on the other hand, make life easier for the new mother and
family in the first weeks after childbirth. In addition to providing
emotional support, they help new parents become comfortable with
newborn care and infant feeding. They can also lend a hand by cooking
a meal, throwing in a load of laundry, spending time with siblings
and performing other household organization tasks.
from helping to make childbirth and its aftermath as positive as
possible, doulas have been proven to improve obstetric outcomes.
Studies show that when doulas assist with childbirth, women have
shorter labors, fewer complications, require less pain medication,
and have lower incidences of cesarean sections. They are also more
satisfied with their birth experiences, suffer less from postpartum
depression, and have a stronger bond with their partners and babies.
also benefit. In fact, fewer babies are admitted to special care
nurseries, evaluated for infection, or have longer than normal hospital
stays when doulas are involved.
help moms, babies and families while reducing the cost of obstetrical
how can you find the right doula for you?
doulas work for hospitals or serve as community or hospital volunteers,
so its worth checking with your doctor. For the most part,
though, expecting families hire doulas privately.
a doula is very personal. While there are thousands of doulas to
choose from, not all doulas are created equal. So its important
to ensure that your doula has received formal training and/or certification.
DONA International (the worlds largest association of doulas)
is the most respected organization that trains and certifies doulas.
can find a listing of birth and postpartum doulas across the globe
following questions will help guide you as you seek the right doula
interviewing a birth or postpartum doula, ask:
What training have you had? (You should verify certification with
Do you have one or more backup doulas for times when you are not
available? May we meet her/them?
What is your fee, what does it include, and what are your refund
interviewing a birth doula:
Tell me/us about your philosophy about childbirth and supporting
women and their partners through labor.
May we meet to discuss our birth plans and the role you will play
in supporting me/us through childbirth?
May we call you with questions or concerns before and after the
When do you try to join women in labor? Do you come to our home
or meet us at the place of birth?
Do you meet with me/us after the birth to review the labor and answer
interviewing a postpartum doula:
Tell me about your experience as a postpartum doula.
What is your philosophy about parenting and supporting women and
their families during postpartum?
May we meet to discuss our needs and the role you will play?
What different types of services do you offer?
When do your services begin postpartum?
What is your experience in breast-feeding support?
Have you had a criminal background check, a recent TB test? Do you
have current CPR certification?
Grauer is the President of DONA International, the worlds
oldest and largest doula association. She has worked as a certified
birth and postpartum doula for more than 15 years, developed countless
doula programs, and delivered speeches and presentations across
the country. For more information, visit: www.dona.org
The information presented on this site is intended
solely as a general educational aid, and is neither medical nor
healthcare advice for any individual problem, nor a substitute for
medical or other professional advice and services from a qualified
healthcare provider familiar with your unique circumstances. Always
seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare
professional regarding any medical condition and before starting
any new treatment.