What is a Doula?

“When my daughter was three, she asked me what the difference was between a midwife and a doula. I replied, “The midwife catches the baby and the doula holds the mama’s hand. In all her three year old wisdom she replied, “Oh, so the mama won’t be afraid.”  Kyle Maclean

 

In Greek, the word Doula means Servant.  That is the key role of a doula.  However, serving a mother in labor comes in many different forms. Doulas have been around for many years in the form of mothers, aunts, sisters and even friends.  It wasn’t until the past couple of decades that a formal education as a doula became available.  The word doula in present tense refers to a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and after childbirth.

How is a Doula Trained?

There are many different ways to become a certified doula.  We chose to get our certification through Charis for a number of reasons.  First, we wanted to become certified in both doula services AND childbirth education.  Second, the curriculum, when compared to others, was the most strenuous in the requirements (this specific education is the first half in midwifery training to becoming a Certified Practicing Midwife.)  We were required to read 13 books, complete 4 projects, attend 2 workshops, write 3 essays and 1 research paper.  We attended 2 births WITH a senior doula and several AS the senior doula.  We audited a childbirth education series and then taught one (while being evaluated.)  We had bi-monthly coaching appointments which held us accountable for learning the material.  Our curriculum covered anatomy, physiology, labor, birth, nutrition, obstetrical procedures/tests, emotional health, postpartum care, newborn, breastfeeding and teaching skills. In these coaching appointments we had invaluable conversations with an experienced  woman who has attended over 250 births.  At the conclusion of our 15 months of study we passed an extensive 3 hour exam.  The third reason we choose Charis, and perhaps most important, we wanted a certification program that acknowledges God’s perfect design for pregnancy, labor, and birth.

Do I Want a Doula?

There are many advantages to having a doula present at your birth.  A doula, while caring, is also objective.  She knows your labor desires prior to labor and will encourage you through every stage of labor.  A doula always comes to your labor ready to serve and protect you.  She is not hired by the hospital, therefore her concern is you (however she should have a good relationship with the staff).  She is an accessible resource, you do not have to remember everything you have read about labor or all of the information from your childbirth class.  She is able to answer questions concerning your labor’s progress and give unemotional, informed options if you are presented with choices during labor.  Birth InSight doulas have experienced labor and can look you in the eyes and know where you are.  A good doula sets the room (with tricks in her bag) to allow you to feel safe and free to find your labor rhythm.  Her constant presence reminds you that labor is a natural process that you have been designed (and are able) to do.  You will remember your labor day for the rest of your life.  Women who hire doulas know that they have done everything they can to set themselves up to ensure this memory is one they will treasure.  Additionally, doulas attending labors have reduced the duration of labor (up to 50%), reduced the c-section rate (up to 10% difference), reduced epidural or other painkiller use, reduced the use of forceps and vacuum extraction, reduce episiotomies, reduce perineal tears, reduce the instance of post-partum depression.  Mothers who hire doulas have fewer complications with breastfeeding and breastfeed longer.

Visit ICAN for more information.

Does Having a Doula Replace the Father’s Role?

Absolutely not!  It is the doula’s job to enhance the relationship of the husband and wife throughout the labor. She does this by providing guidance and making suggestions.  Fathers report feeling more relaxed during the labor because of the doula’s constant support.  They are able to be a part of the experience rather than shouldering the weight of the experience.  With a doula, dad’s primary concern is to nurture and protect his family.  The laboring mother will have both loving care and support, paired with the expertise and guidance, she deserves at this blessed event.

Sources

Klaus MH, Kennell JK, The doula: an essential ingredient of childbirth rediscovered. Acta Paediatr 1997 Oct 86:10 1034-6.

Nolan M. Supporting Women in Labour: the Doula’s Role. Mod Midwife 1995 Mar 5-3 12-5

Scott KD, Klaus PH, Klaus MH, The Obstetrical and Postpartum Benefits of Continuous Support During Childbirth.  J Women’s Health Gender Based Med. 1999 Dec; 8:1257-64.