What is a labor and birth doula?
a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible. – DONA International
Before I get too far, I want to add a personal note about a doula’s work that is most important to highlight. A doula is a PROFESSIONAL, someone who has trained with a professional, studied with guidance through a respected organization, and understands the emotional needs transitioning to parenthood and birth presents.
Furthermore, a doula understands and respects the role of additional support people including partners, family and medical staff.
A do - what? What does a labor and birth doula do?
A doula is a certified and trained professional who provides CONTINUOUS non-medical care and support for the mother and the partner (and sometimes more) during labor and birth and for some, postnatal support as well.
A doula provides support in three pillars: educational support, physical support and emotional support and not only for the birthing mother, for the partner too!
Educational support ensures the mother and partner understand the physiology and anatomy of birth, their birth rights, their choices in birth which in turn help mothers and partners make informed choices.
Physical support provides non-painful input which closes the “gate” to painful input (Gate Control Theory of Pain). Non-painful input can come in the forms of comforting touch, counter pressure, comfort measures like hip-squeezes. Our hands are our greatest tools, but I personally also use TENS units, the Rebozo, Birth Balls/Peanut balls and therapy balls as well.
Emotional support is important to really help a birthing mother and the partner feel supported. A doula provides this in many ways, but the goal is to ensure they have an empowered, memorable birth, one that belonged to them, a birth where they had the support they needed, felt heard and respected and one where medical interventions were introduced as desired and when medically necessary. A doula can ensure the mother’s voice and wishes are heard, the birth space is respected and made safe, the mother’s body is able to release tension and fear, while positive birth affirmations remind the mother of her body’s ability and strengths.
It is most important to note that we cannot, I repeat, CANNOT replace your partner in most cases. With permission and understanding, a doula will involve your partner in a role that fits them and their comfort level.
There is SOOOO much to our work that is hard to ever write and get spot on and trust me, I have revised this section 100 times and still just can’t nail it.
Like each birth, our work is unique to the woman and their needs.