What is a Birth Doula?
The word "doula" comes from the greek word meaning "woman's servant." In our society doulas have evolved to be trained labor coaches that assist the woman and her partner during labor in order for mom to have best birth experience possible, regardless of the circumstance. This includes providing physical, educational and emotional support, but does not include any medical interventions.
What are the advantages of having a birth doula?
It’s impossible to predict or control how birth and labor will go. Will you connect emotionally with your labor and delivery nurse, will her shift end before you deliver? How will you react to the pain? Will you have a swift delivery or a long labor? If your labor does not go according to your birth plan, what are your options?
Faced with these uncertainties, many women find enormous reassurance in having a doula by their side. Research has found that women who have a doula during labor tend to use pain medication less often, have slightly shorter labors, and are less likely to have a c-section or other interventions.
Women who have continuous support are also more likely to report being satisfied with their birth experience. One theory is that mothers who have continuous support produce lower levels of stress hormones during labor. Regardless of the reason, the benefits are clear; your own personal coach, support, symbolically or literally someone to lean on, guiding you through your birth experience.
A birth doula does not replace the partner or other team members. She becomes part of the team, assisting the partner by suggesting helpful position changes, grabbing food, water, or other comfort measures so the partner can stay with mom, or relieving the partner for a few minutes of rest to re-charge. In the end, you define how your doula can help.
What is a postpartum doula?
A postpartum doula's primary role is to help 'mother the mother', nurture the family environment and provide a smooth transition in the early weeks or months following birth so the family may thrive. The role that a postpartum doula plays varies between families as well as how long they have been with the family, but involves taking care of the parents by helping with infant care, sibling integration, keeping the parents nourished and hydrated, light housekeeping, breastfeeding/feeding support etc. In doing so a postpartum doula helps maintain the 'baby bubble' so the family is connected, secure and successful.
What are the advantages of having a postpartum doula?
The postpartum period can, and often is, a very overwhelming experience; the mother's hormones are off balance, both parents aren't sleeping, siblings may be having a hard time adjusting to the new addition, everyone is emotional and exhausted. Oftentimes family members or friends step in to help; cooking meals, doing a few loads of laundry, holding the baby while mom takes a shower or gets some much needed rest. Sometimes, however, family visits involve holding the baby while the parents entertain leaving them feeling more tired. Sometimes family members aren't available. Sometimes it's just nice to have a little extra help and support from someone who is solely there to do just that; look after everyone.
What is a Certified Lactation Counselor and how can they help?
Breastfeeding is often said to be 'natural' and 'instinctual.' Though this is so, so true I believe the tradition of helping women to establish healthy breastfeeding that was passed down from generation to generation has been lost. Breastfeeding should not hurt. Sometimes baby needs a little help to establish a good latch or get in a good routine. Oftentimes mama is going back to work and needs help with bottle feeding, pumping and working on her supply. A CLC is a trained, tested professional who is a compassionate and knowledgeable teacher that can gently help mom on the steps to a successful breastfeeding relationship with her baby. Depending on what baby and mama needs this may be a small adjustment or an in-depth plan.
For more questions about the role of birth and postpartum doula's please feel free to contact me. You can also look at DONA International's website - www.dona.org