Doula... a Greek word that means mothering the mother, is the term that describes a woman who provides emotional, educational and physical support to pregnant women and their families during labor and birth.
A doula supports the image of birth as a normal, natural process. She sees a woman as powerful in
labor and able to choose for herself the type of birth she would like to
Doulas understand that women need caring support, someone to tell them that what they are feeling is normal, and someone who will accompany them and their family throughout the labor and birth.
She is practical and will suggest coping strategies such as massage, breathwork and acupressure to ease the pain of labor and to shorten its length.
When the unexpected happens, the Doula helps the family gather information to make decisions. She does not make decisions for her clients.
The doula does not take the place of family and friends, she is there to assist and support them, allowing them to experience the birth rather than having to remember the coping strategies.
Doula services often include two prenatal visits, one postpartum visit and assistance during labor. This may include support at home in early labor as well as at the hospital or birth center. Some doulas see their role as a client advocate and will act as a liaison with the hospital staff.
As a family contemplates whether to use a doula, they should consider several questions:
The following are good questions to ask a potential doula:
Each doula has her own style and philosophy and some book several months in advance. It is important to call as early in pregnancy as possible. You may want to ask preliminary questions over the phone and interview 2-4 doulas personally. Most couples interview doulas together because you both should be comfortable with her.