What Is a Doula?
Not too long ago a laboring woman was surrounded by the female members of her family while she birthed in the comfort of her own home. Men were rarely permitted to be in attendance as they were believed to hinder the birth process. The new mother was cared for by her mother, grandmother, mother-in-law and perhaps a midwife during the birth and postpartum period. Once birth was moved into the hospital, this care was replaced by doctors and nurses -strangers essentially who often times had no previous relationship with the woman. The doula was born to fill the void the absence of the mothers support system left. Doula, Greek for “a woman who serves” is someone who brings knowledge, compassion and a loving touch to the labor room. She is not there to replace the mother’s partner, to provide medical advice or perform clinical tasks. She is there to mother the mother and provide unbiased information to aid in the decision making process.
A Birth Doula:
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
- Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth.
- Stays with the woman throughout the labor
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make an informed decision
- Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
- Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level
The partner, may be better able to provide continuous support but has little actual experience in dealing with the forces of labor. Even partners who have had intensive preparation are often surprised at the amount of work involved -more than enough for two people. Even more important, many partners experience the birth as an emotional journey of their own and find it hard to be objective in such a situation.
Some partners are concerned they may be sidelined or replaced by the Doula during labor. Studies have shown that partners usually participate more actively during labor in the presence of a Doula than without one. A responsible Doula supports and encourages the partner and enhances their support style rather than replacing them.
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*All Photos Courtesy of Samantha Noel Photography*