The word Doula comes from the Ancient Greek term meaning "woman servant". Today we use this word to define a person who serves as a birth companion, or labor coach. A Doula is a trained professional who provides a birthing woman with informational guidance as well as encouraging & reassuring emotional and physical support during her pregnancy & birth.
Postpartum Doulas offer support and guidance during the period of time after your baby is born.
A Doula is NOT a medical provider, and does NOT perform clinical tasks. But while other staff on your medical team will need to tend to other patients, a Doula never leaves your side.
A Doula maintains a close relationship with her clients in order to provide continuous, meaningful and individualized care. She fosters tranquility and is trained to support you in labor with soothing techniques to ease discomfort and promote safe progress.
When you have continuous labor support from someone who is NOT part of your social network and NOT a hospital staff member, you and your baby are likely to have better outcomes!
Hodnett et al. (2017). "Continuous support for women during childbirth." Cochrane database of systematic reviews: CD003766
The most satisfying birth experiences happen when you, your partner, and your family are physically, emotionally and mindfully prepared for each birthing stage: prenatal, labor and postpartum.
A Doula will meet with you several times prenatally to ensure you understand the physiology of labor and to discuss your rights and options for birth. Together you will craft a birth plan and prepare for different possibilities, based on your choice of birthing location, with the ultimate goal being informed decision making. As labor draws near, a Doula coaches expectant families on comfort & relaxation techniques as well as offers information about options and medical procedures available during labor.
A Doula doesn't replace anyone. She is another member of your birth team and supports everyone in their own role.
A Doula's presence helps partners participate at their own comfort level, showing them how and when to use various comfort techniques, providing information, and looking after their well being, too!
Partners are often grateful to be sharing the "coaching“ responsibility with someone more experienced and can therefore enjoy the birth experience more.
No one can replace or replicate the bond between partner and mother and the support that partners can provide is invaluable.
A Doulas role is not to speak for you, but to help you find your OWN voice.
A Doula does not give medical advice, but will help you ask the right questions.
A Doula does not make any decisions on your behalf, but will help you understand your options.
A Doula does not communicate your preferences to others on your birth team, but helps you communicate them.
It is a Doula's goal to establish good working relationships with the doctors, midwives and medical staff of her expectant families. Communication, respect, professionalism and trust create a supportive birthing team.
Even in a surgical setting, planned or otherwise, a Doula can be there to explain the process and guide you & partner through the procedure. She is also there during recovery to help you with breastfeeding and bonding.
Knowing what you want for your birth is the first step to empowering your choices. A Doula's goal is to help you feel educated, prepared and confident before labor begins. This means prenatally discussing all your options for pain relief.
Should you chose an epidural before or during labor, a Doula supports that decision 100%, offers information on all procedures and side effects, translates medical terms, facilitate dialogue between you & your providers, and continues to assist you in finding comfortable positions to avoid impeding the progress fo labor, as well as supporting you through any physical sensations or emotions you may feel, depending on how much medication you receive.
A Doula will attend to you regardless of your choice of birthing location - Hospital, Home or Birthing Center.
Obstetricians, Midwives, and Nurses (both hospital and home birth practitioners) have very different roles than a Doula. They are your primary care providers during your pregnancy & will take care of all your medical needs. They each have great responsibilities & their time is spent monitoring baby and charting your labor. They are responsible for the physical health and well being of you and baby.
Doulas will be present for you longer, and often sooner, than the above providers, to help you manage your labor, providing consistent care for you and your partner, such as massage, breathing techniques, and acupressure.
A Doula is responsible for safeguarding the emotional health and well being of you and partner.
Nearly all Doulas work with a Back-Up Doula, who makes herself available for any periods of time where your Doula may not be available.
However, a Doula will generally clear her calendar for two weeks before your Estimated Due Date and two weeks after. This means she is On-Call for you, 24/7, for the window of time when it is likely that your baby will be born.
The average cost of a Doula depends on the service area they work in, but you can expect to pay somewhere between $1500 - $2200 for a seasoned Doula, and somewhere around $300-$800 for a newer doula, with the vast range of prices in between.
Many Doulas offer other "a la carte" services in addition (such as placenta encapsulation, massage, belly casting, etc.) to their birth support services, either at extra cost or as part of a selection of packages for their clients.
Depending on what you are looking for in terms of support, nearly all families are able to find a Doula that fits their personalities, needs and specific circumstances.