In the times before modern medicine decreed that all women should give birth in hospitals, women delivered their babies in the company of other women, drawing on their knowledge and experience. The doula – from the Greek word meaning “servant” – is a remnant of this era. Doulas function as birth support professionals, attending to the couple’s emotional needs throughout the delivery, while doctors and midwives take care of the clinical aspects of the birth process.
What exactly does a doula do?
Doulas are professionals who are familiar with the birth process and are experienced in helping guide women through the process of delivery. They can tailor their services to meet your specific needs, but most offer services that range from pre-birth planning to post-delivery counseling. A woman delivering her first child could benefit from a doula’s help in understanding the many different birthing options and in creating a delivery plan. A doula can also help coach the mother-to-be on how to tackle the physical and emotional aspects of the birthing process.
During the delivery, a doula will be by your side, offering encouragements and massages, while guiding your breathing patterns and providing relaxation exercises. The doula can also provide support to your partner, who may be feeling any number of complicated emotions during the birthing process. In addition, once you’re discharged from the hospital, a doula can come to your home to help you learn how to interact with your newborn baby. For first time mothers, this support can be critical in forming a more cohesive family group and preventing post-partum depression.
How do you find a doula?
If you’ve decided to use the services of a doula during your birth, the next step is to find one! Perhaps the easiest way to find one is through the recommendation of friends and family members. Ask around – you might be surprised to find out how many women take advantage of the doula’s wealth of knowledge during delivery. Plus, by asking around for contacts, you’ll be able to get personal recommendations for specific doulas and the services they provide. If you aren’t able to find a doula through this process, you can also ask your doctor or other staff members at your hospital – many of these professionals work closely with doulas and may be able to give you a few names.
Another option for locating a doula is to visit the website of organizations like Doulas of North America (dona.org) or the Doula Network (doulanetwork.com). Both of these websites have directory listings of doulas in your area with contact information so that you can get in touch with specific doulas. In the case of the Doulas of North America, you can be assured that any doula whose name is listed in the directory has promised to uphold the organization’s standards of care and professionalism. In addition, both of these sites offer a wealth of information on the birthing process and the role a doula plays in making it easier.
Once you’ve identified a few possible doulas, take the time to interview each of them before making a decision. The birth process is very personal, so you want to be sure you’re working with someone you feel comfortable with. When you interview each doula, consider whether or not you’ll feel confident with this woman on hand while your feet are up in the stirrups. If the answer is no, move on until you find a candidate that you really click with.