According to DONA (Doulas of North America), “The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.” Doulas are often trained in massage and other non-pharmaceutical methods of pain relief.
There are basically 2 types of doulas (some doulas offer both types of services to their clients, while others specialize in one service or the other):
birthing doulas help couples to write a birth plan and then offer support during labor and the first few hours after the birth.
Postpartum doulas provide a reassuring mix of motherly advice, breastfeeding assistance and hands-on help with household chores like cooking and cleaning during the days and weeks after baby’s arrival.
Why Have a Doula
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. They also reduce the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), pain medication and epidurals, forceps, vacuum extraction, and cesareans.
Furthermore, research shows that women who use a doula feel more secure, confident, and cared for. They are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics, and experience less postpartum depression.
How to Find a Doula
She Knows Pregnancy & Baby provides some questions to ask when you start shopping around for the right doula:
- Are you accredited through Doulas of North America (DONA)?
- How many births have you attended?
- What is your philosophy about childbirth?
- What role do you see yourself playing at our baby’s birth?
- Do you work with a backup doula? If so, could we meet her ahead of time?
- What services do you provide?
- Can you provide us with references?
- What are your fees?
Note: You can expect to pay between $200 and $600 for the services of a birthing doula and a fixed hourly rate for the services of a postpartum doula (rates vary tremendously from one part of the country to another, but $15-$20/hr. is fairly typical).
Feature image from Glam