What is a Doula?

A Doula giving a massage.Doula is a Greek word for “woman’s servant.” A birth doula is a supportive companion professionally trained to provide physical, informational and emotional support during labor and birth.  Many people do not know that birth doulas exist to support couples in labor and in fact are often confused with having a midwife.  A doula provides continuous support, beginning during early or Active Labor, through birth, and for approximately 2 hours following the birth. The doula offers help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning, and massage.  
She also assists families with gathering information about the course of labor and their options. Her most critical role is providing continuous emotional reassurance and comfort.

Doulas attend home births and hospital births; medicated births and un-medicated births, with women whose care is being overseen by doctors or midwives. Doulas may be the only support person for the mother, or may be part of a labor support team including mom’s partner, friend(s), and/or family members.

Another misconception about doulas is that you must have a natural (without interventions/pain medications) birth.  Instead, think of her as a guide or sounding-board so that no matter what course your birth takes you can feel informed and confident about your decisions as you navigate through birth in the best possible way.  Doulas are non-judgmental and are only there for your support.  Think of her as girlfriend’s P.I.E. – she will provide physical, informational, and emotional support.  She does not replace your partner and is indeed an asset to your Birth Team.

Doulas specialize in non-medical skills, and do not perform clinical tasks, or diagnose medical conditions. They do not make decisions for their clients. Their goal is to provide the support and information needed to help the birthing mother have a safe and satisfying birth as the mother defines it.  Locate a doula by asking your mommy friends for referrals.  Reliable referrals can also come form your prenatal yoga classes or OB/GYN’s office.  You can also find a doula on a few websites, which certify doulas such as www.dona.org and www.cappa.net.

Proven Benefits of Doula Supported Childbirth

Decreased Medical Intervention in Labor*:  Reduces need for Cesarean-Section by 50%
Reduces length of labor by 25%
Reduces use of artificial oxytocin by 40%
Reduces pain medication use by 30%
Reduces the need for forceps/vacuum extraction by 40%
Reduces epidural requests by 60%

6 weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were:  Less anxious and depressed
Had more confidence with baby
More satisfied w/ partner (71% vs 30%)
More likely to be breastfeeding (52% vs. 29%)

*These statistics appear in “A Doula Makes the Difference” by Nugent in Mothering Magazine, March-April 1998. For more about the research, see http://www.dona.org/publications/position_paper_birth.php
**Study cited in “The Doula” by Klaus in Childbirth Instructor Magazine, Spring 1995.

About the Author:

Patricia GrubePatricia Grube is a certified Pre/Post-Natal Yoga instructor who teaches classes at Yoga Works in Los Angeles.  Patricia has a thriving birth doula practice and has guided hundreds of couples through their childbirth experience (www.serenitybirth.com).  Additionally, she is a published author and recently co-authored a new book called, “Posh Push: Modern Girls Reveal Secrets to a More Natural Birth” now available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009LQS32G.

You can visit Patricia’s website at www.serenitybirth.com

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