Is a Doula the same thing as a midwife or a nurse?
No, a doula provides no medical or nursing care. A professional midwife delivers the baby in a hospital, home, or birth center. A doula is a support person who does not deliver the baby. Since she doesn’t have these responsibilities, or other patients to attend to, she can give her complete and total attention to being by a woman’s side for the entire length of her labor, providing continuous emotional and physical support.
What is a Doula?
A doula is a labor support person who gives emotional and physical comfort to laboring women. They do not perform clinical tasks such as heart rate checks, or vaginal exams but use massage, relaxation techniques, positioning suggestions etc. to help the labor progress as well as possible. A doula joins a laboring woman either at her home or in the hospital or birth center and remains with her until a few hours after the birth. Most doulas also offer several prenatal visits, phone support and one postpartum meeting to ensure the mother is doing well, informed and supported. The terms of a labor/birth doulas responsibilities are decided between the doula and the family.
Why hire a doula?
My job as your doula is to be your trained labor companion. We will have two prenatal appointments so we can get to know each other and prepare for your birth. I will be on call 24 hours a day for 2 weeks before and after your due date. When you are in active labor, I come to your house or the hospital to help with relaxation, massage, visualization, positioning and progression techniques. I stay with you throughout labor and up to 2 hours postpartum to help establish breastfeeding. When you are ready after the birth I will visit you in your home to see how everyone in the family is doing, go over any questions you may have, and provide you with lactation assistance.
Women supported by a doula during labor have been shown to have:
• 50% reduction in Cesarean rate • 25% shorter labor • 60% reduction in epidural requests • 40% reduction in Pitocin use • 30% reduction in analgesic use • 30% reduction in forceps delivery
Six weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas experienced:
• Less anxiety and depression • More confidence with the baby • More satisfaction with their partner
Long-term benefits of using a doula:
• Improved breastfeeding • Increased time spent with baby • More positive maternal assessments of baby's personality and health, and maternal competence • Decreased postpartum depression
"Mothering the Mother", by M.H. Klaus, J.H. Kennell, and P.H. Klaus; Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, New York (1993).