Doulas to the Rescue
Mother-Based Birth Advocacy
Doulas are not doctors or nurses, but they can provide you with informed support before, during, and after childbirth. How they help you is up to you and the doula to decide. Some doulas start working with you during the pregnancy, some arrive for the birth, and still others may lead you through the difficult postpartum days or months. Doulas encourage mother-based birth advocacy and motivate a woman to feel in control of her pregnancy.
The word doula comes from the Greek word for slave, but the modern connotation of the word is 'service.' Some doulas prefer to be called labor companions or birth workers. The word doula in its modern incarnation was first used by anthropologist Dana Raphael to refer to experienced mothers who would advise new mothers in the art of newborn care and breastfeeding. Later on, researchers Marshall Klaus and John Kennell adopted the term to refer to the trinity of labor, prenatal, and postpartum support.
Labor support doulas attend to the needs of laboring women, easing the childbirth process. They do not perform tasks that are clinical in nature, but rather use techniques such as massage, positioning, spoken advice, aromatherapy, reflexology, and the like, to help the laboring mother as much as possible. In this case, the doula stays with the mother throughout the birth and for the first few hours postpartum.
Some doulas offer prenatal visits along with phone support plus one postpartum meeting. Doulas can also work as advocates for their clients and can help bridge the gap between the medical professionals and the birth parents in regard to medical procedures.
Postpartum doulas support the woman after the birth, most often in the family home. They are knowledgeable on a variety of postpartum topics including breastfeeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing, mother-baby bonding, and coping skills for new parents. Some doulas even help with light housework, perhaps preparing nutritious meals for the mother and teaching older children how to pitch in.
Supports, Doesn't Supplant Dads
The doula can help mentor a father or partner to better cope with the processes of labor and delivery, postpartum needs, and the process of building a family. Some fathers experience emotional turmoil and benefit from the objectivity and experience of a doula. Studies confirm that fathers tend to participate in a more active manner when a doula is on hand during the labor. The doula supports rather than supplants the father or partner.