Birth Doula FAQs (original from DONA International)
A birth doula is a person trained and experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth.
The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “Woman’s servant.” Throughout history and in much of the world today, a cadre of women support a woman through labor and birth, giving back rubs and providing continuous emotional support. Like their historical counterparts, DONA International birth doulas know how to help a woman in labor feel better. However, today’s doulas are much more diverse than their predecessors. DONA International membership includes men and women from a wide range of ages and cultural backgrounds.
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth:
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction
- reduces the requests for pain medication and epidurals, as well as the incidence of cesareans
When a doula is present during and after childbirth, women report greater satisfaction with their birth experience, make more positive assessments of their babies, have fewer cesareans and requests for medical intervention, and less postpartum depression.
Studies have shown that babies born with doulas present tend to have shorter hospital stays with fewer admissions to special care nurseries, breastfeed more easily and have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum period.
When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and parenting, today’s father wants to
share everything with his partner. He wants to be actively involved; ease his
partner’s labor pain, welcome his baby at the moment of birth and help care
for his newborn at home. A labor doula can help a father experience this
special time with confidence. (Click for more information).
Doulas practice in three ways: privately hired directly by clients,
as hospital employees, and as volunteers in community or hospital programs.
No. Doulas do not replace nurses or other medical staff. Doulas do not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, doing vaginal examinations or providing postpartum clinical care. They are there to comfort and support the mother and to enhance communication between the mother and medical professionals.
A doula does not make decisions for clients or intervene in their clinical care. She provides informational and emotional support, while respecting a woman’s decisions.
No, a doula is supportive to both the mother and her partner, and plays a crucial role in helping a partner become involved in the birth to the extent he/she feels comfortable.