The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves,” and now refers to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth. Some doulas only provide postpartum services and are known as postpartum doulas. Many birthing doulas, however, also provide postpartum services.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, and the babies are healthier and breastfeed more easily.
Most doulas will meet with you and your partner several times during your pregnancy. Your doula will help you prepare a plan for your birth and come to your home when your labor starts. At your home, she will provide emotional and physical support for you and help you make informed decision while in early labor. She will then come with you to the hospital for the rest of your labor and will continue to provide emotional and physical support for you. She will be focused on being nurturing and aims to provide the best possible birthing experience for you.
A postpartum doula will help you with the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to a family. She aims to improve parental satisfaction and reduce the risk of mood disorders. She will also offer education and nonjudgmental support during this period. She will offer information about infant feeding, help with emotional and physical recovery from the birth, and help with coping skills for the new parents.
A doula is not for everyone. Some couples prefer to have a more intimate experience, but the great majority of couples who work with a doula are very satisfied with the experience.
Do note that not all health care providers are comfortable working with a doula, so talk to your provider about her or his experience and preferences. If your provider is “doula friendly,” you can ask for a list of doulas she or he has worked with in the past.