You may or may not have heard the term “doula” associated with childbirth and the care of a newborn child. Or, you may have heard the term but not known what it means. The word doula comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “a woman who serves.” Today, this term is used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and after the birth of a child.
A birth doula assists the expectant mother in preparing and carrying out her plans for birth and stays with her throughout the labor. In some cases, a birth doula is used as a substitute for the father in cases where the father of the child is not present. In other cases, a birth doula is used for extra support and involves the father in the birthing process according to his level of comfort.
A postpartum doula offers education, companionship and non-judgemental support during the postpartum period. This role includes assisting with newborn care, helping the family adjust to the newborn child, and assisting with meal preparation and light housework. A doula can also help with infant feeding and supply helpful coping skills for new parents. For many people, this role is filled by a mother or aunt or someone who has had experience with infants and children. However, if no such relative is able to be there after the birth of a child, this role can be filled by a doula. Some people prefer a doula over a family member or friend because of their specific training and experience.
A doula does not take the place of an Obstetrician, a Midwife or any other type of health care professional. A doula works specifically with the mother and can help to interact with healthcare professionals. If needed, a doula can refer the parents to the appropriate types of healthcare professionals (Obstetricians, Pediatricians, etc.). If you have more questions about the role of a doula in your pregnancy/deliver/post-partum care, talk to your Obstetrician today.