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“What is a Doula?” and Other Essential FAQs about Doulas

At Burdett we are focused on your birth experience, your way. From the choice of OB/GYN or midwife, to relaxation techniques and hydrotherapy, and everything in between, we want your birth to be designed by you, for you. In addition to those offerings, we also support your decision to have who you want with you in your support system. This is why we respect your decision to include a doula on your birthing team.

Don’t know what a doula is or what they do? Check out this quick FAQ guide to find out more:

What is a doula?

A doula – Greek for women’s servant – is a trained birthing assistant who provides emotional, physical and educational support for the laboring mother. The labor doula is fully available as a companion and advocate to the family. Her role is to give the mother a safe, positive and memorable birth experience. In many ways, she becomes an extension of the mother.

Doulas do not replace the role of a partner, or a family member, but are an addition to your support team. They can help partners by gently guiding them through the birth process. They can also relieve partners who might be feeling pressure for being every role to the mother and help partners enjoy the birth experience, reducing the stress for everyone.

What does a doula do?

The services offered by your doula can be broken down into three categories – emotional, physical and educational support.

Emotional Support:

Childbirth can be a very demanding and emotional experience for everyone. A doula can help with encouragement, kindness and re-direction to help the laboring mother focus on the positives and help her feel as comfortable as possible. Sometimes if a birth plan requires adjustments or tweaks it’s common to feel upset, hurt or worried. Doulas often help mothers to calm down, recharge and refocus on the task at hand. A doula may also serve as a liaison, or a bridge, between mother and staff at Burdett. The doula may also provide emotional support to the partners of the laboring mother who may benefit in having someone to address their concerns or questions while the mother is in labor.

Physical Support:

Doulas also help birthing mothers with physical support. They are trained in strategies that help mothers with pain management and positioning. Doulas provide advice and hands-on techniques for counter pressure, breathing and discomfort solutions to make delivery as comfortable as possible. They are trained in touch which helps not only in reducing pain, but also in easing stress and anxiety. Doulas may help mothers experience the benefits of oxytocin naturally without the use of medication by using massage. In fact, studies have shown that in a doula-assisted birth the requests for pain relief drugs are reduced, and there is a decrease in the number of overall cesareans.

Educational Support:

Doulas who have gone through the DONA certification come equipped with information related to pregnancy tips and tricks, labor and delivery advice, breastfeeding assistance and more. The labor and delivery process can feel overwhelming and, sometimes, confusing. A doula on-hand can help translate, organize and relay information in a way that makes sense to a new mother and her family.

Will a doula be useful if I need medication or if I have a cesarean?

Yes! Even for mothers who are having a medicated birth, a doula can still be a great resource, as they provide emotional, educational and physical help throughout the process of labor and delivery. Some medications have side effects and doulas are a great support in helping mothers cope with those issues or discomfort.

The same applies to cesarean births. A doula can help the mother throughout the procedure and provide information and encouragement to the family so that stress is lessened and they feel confident with their team and what is happening.

How do I find the right doula for me?

Prior to the baby’s birth the mother-doula relationship begins. Typically, either through networking, recommendations or an online site, you’ll find potential candidates. It’s recommended to talk to a couple of women to find your perfect match. After the initial contact (email or call), you and your doula may share information regarding your hopes and plans for childbirth. You will discuss concerns, questions, birthing philosophies and other details to see whether or not both mother and doula are on the same page.

Once you decide on the right person for your family and birth plan, you will discuss costs and what those costs cover (typically they range per service or as a package.)

Prior to labor and delivery, you will touch base – sometimes a few times pending on the preferences of both doula and mother – to discuss details, including due dates, birth plans and more, and talk over scenarios that could take place during the birth. While doulas do not provide medical care, they are a major information resource on every aspect of the childbirth journey. In addition to answering your questions, they can help you to define and create a birth plan and work through the “what if” questions in a “Plan B” scenario so that you both feel ready and prepared on the big day.

What does a doula do after the birth?

After the birth, doulas can be available to assist new mothers with pain-relief management, breastfeeding guidance and family bonding assistance. It’s not uncommon for the doula to become part of the family and an ongoing resource after the birth of the baby.

In addition to birthing doulas, there are also postpartum doulas. A postpartum doula helps the new mother and family to adjust. She is often available as an ear to listen, a hand to hold and an encourager in the first few weeks after birth when a new mother might feel stressed or overwhelmed. Some doulas provide one service (labor and delivery or postpartum) but there are many who provide multiple services. The best way to know is to ask!

At Burdett, we work closely with new mothers and their support team, including doulas. We are a doula-friendly birth center and support the decision to have one present for labor & delivery.

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