Doula: The word doula comes from an ancient Greek word, meaning “a woman who serves”. Today, the word Doula has come to refer to the specially trained birth professional, who provides physical and emotional support during all stages of pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period. During labor, a Doula provides knowledge of the birth process, comfort measures for labor, continuous support, and patient advocacy.
During pregnancy, Doulas typically meet with their clients several times to help prepare them for birth, sometimes even attending a prenatal appointment together with the doctor or midwife. During labor and birth, the Doula provides physical and emotional support for the laboring woman and her family. Finally, Doulas often make at least one postpartum visit to the new mother, to help her process the birth experience, and to help answer any questions or concerns she may have about her own body and taking care of her newborn.
Doulas can be certified (there are many certifying organizations – see here), or uncertified.
There is a lot of excellant research demonstrating the benefits of Doulas for labor support. Benefits include shorter labors, fewer complications, and easier breastfeeding initiation, among others.
More on the evidence for Doulas, as well as resources for finding and hiring a Doula on Wednesday!