What is a Doula?

What is a Doula?

The Essential Ingredient: Doula from DONA International on Vimeo.

Is the term “Doula” new to you?

For ages women have been caring for women during labor and childbirth.

It was only in the past few centuries this practice has shifted.

The tide is starting to shift back. Many women are requesting the supportive care of a doula at their birth.

A doula provides emotional, physical, and informational support to the mother. Before birth she will get to know the mother and discover what is important to her regarding her birth. She will understand the mothers wishes and concerns regarding her upcoming birth. The doula is available to the mother throughout pregnancy to answer questions and be a support for her. The doula attends to the mother throughout her entire labor and delivery, and can assist in getting breastfeeding initialized following delivery.

The doula is not a replacement for the mothers birth partner but an addition to her team of support.

She can suggest new ways in which the partner can provide support, as well as staying attentive to the mother during times the partner may need to take a break.

Numerous studies have shown that labors with the caring support of a doula lead to fewer medical interventions including cesarean sections. Women are more relaxed, fear is reduced, and pain medication use is reduced in doula supported labors. Labors with doulas present have shown to be more satisfying, empowering, and positive experiences for the mother.

The doula’s calm presence and commitment to the mother’s well-being helps counteract the effects of stress hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline) which are released when a woman in labor becomes anxious, fearful, or insecure. Elevated stress hormones cause labor to slow down or stop while heightening the perception of pain. A trusting, relaxed mother continues to produce oxytocin (the hormone that causes the uterus to contract). She has more effective contractions, but with less tension in her body, she feels less pain. With quiet reassurance, the doula helps the laboring mother and her partner to draw on their own unique talents and strengths.
Excerpt from: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 1, January – February 1998, p. 4-7. By Carol M. Lynch and Patricia B. Holliday. Article: The Doula and the Breastfeeding Family

Women were never meant to labor without the nurturing support of other women.

 

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This conceptual model visually describes the benefits to mothers and babies from receiving continuous labor support, created by Rebecca L. Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN. If you’re looking for some extra reading I highly suggest her many brilliant articles at Evidencebasedbirth.com.
I will close with the words of Dr. John Kennell, author and co-founder of DONA,

“If a doula were a drug, it would be malpractice not to use it.”

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