Maybe we need another name, but it can be difficult to think what else we would call ourselves. Professional Emotional and Physical Support in Labor and Delivery Assistant seems a little long. Sometimes we may shorten the description to professional labor support, but what does that entail? The word Doula means “female servant” from the Greek, and really refers to the role a Doula plays in serving and supporting other women.
What a Doula does.
A Doula is a person (typically a woman but there are male Doulas) who has special training in the physical and emotional aspects of childbirth as well as strategies and techniques to help a laboring woman and her partner have the kind of birth they desire. Doulas meet with their clients typically 2-3 times before the baby’s birthday to get to know the preferences of the laboring person and help to form a birth plan.
Doulas provide uninterrupted labor support during labor and delivery, helping couples ask good questions about their options from medical care providers. The Doula brings a copy of the birth plan, takes notes on procedures and keeps a timeline of the birth. Doulas are there to support emotionally, suggest changes in position or activity to reduce pain and help labor progress.
After the baby is born, the Doula will stay with the new mother for a predetermined amount of time (typically 30 minutes to 2 hours), possibly taking pictures or helping the new family move to a recovery room. Doulas also check in with the new family at home in the first few weeks postpartum. They will listen to you tell your birth story and talk to you about common postpartum topics like breastfeeding, baby care, and caring for yourself.
Doulas charge a fee that depends on the services they offer and the area or clients they wish to serve. Doula fees range from $250 to well over $1000. There are affordable ways to hire a Doula if you have a lower income. Some Doulas have a sliding fee scale, or may work for a non-profit, or a hospital.
What Doulas don’t do.
The Doula is not a doctor. Doulas are not medically trained and do not perform medical tasks. A Doula should not suggest medical interventions or administer medications. Doulas are not your voice, they help you to find your voice. The Doula you work with may ask you a question about your comfort level with a procedure if it is something you have talked about previously, or they may ask you if you have questions for your care provider, whether an MD, OBGYN, Midwife or your labor nurse. Doulas are there to empower you to advocate for yourself.
What Doulas might do.
There are Doulas who have special skills or training that they bring to the labor room as a bonus. Some Doulas are trained in massage. You may find a Doula who is also a photographer. It may be that your Doula is a yoga or other fitness instructor. Some Doulas also serve the other children in the family. Other Doulas are available to serve the family postpartum for an hourly fee. From time to time, a Doula may also be a trained nurse. In that case, they will probably identify under a different title of monatrice.
I hope you have a better idea of who Doulas are and what they can do for expectant mothers and their partners. Maybe we need another name, or maybe we just need to increase awareness to the point that everyone knows what a Doula is and how Doulas can help you have your best birth.
Healthy Pregnancy and Birth,