Women’s choices are a popular topic of debate. Some people believe it’s their right to voice an opinion, and possibly have authority over, a woman’s choice of birth control, her wardrobe, body size, education, career and even the way she chooses to give birth. Perhaps that’s one reason why the role of the doula is growing. Doulas don’t choose how or where women give birth, they listen to the needs of each woman they work with and support that client’s individual choices.
The word doula originates from Greek and translates to mean “women’s servant.” And that describes the role almost perfectly. A doula provides emotional and informational support and acts as a woman’s advocate before, during and after childbirth. The goal of a doula is to help facilitate the safest most pleasant birth experience possible. Though one can assume women who seek out doulas are already interested in natural birth methods, doulas work with expectant mothers who want home births, hospital births, medicated and un-medicated births and cesareans.
The Benefits of a Doula
Doulas are professionals, trained in a variety of topics related to pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care. Some doulas are available for the entire “birth year” from conception up to several weeks after the baby is born; however, many specialize as either a birth doula or a postpartum doula. In addition to being a source of support and empowerment for a mother-to-be, having a doula on your birth team offers tangible benefits. According to American Pregnancy Association, many of those benefits make labor and childbirth easier and safer for mother and child. Women who have doulas present at birth may experience:
- A 50% decrease in cesareans
- Shorter labors – a reduction of about 25% is average
- A 60% less likelihood of requesting an epidural
- A 40% decrease in the use of oxytocin
Doulas aren’t magic, but they are experienced in breathing and relaxation techniques that help to naturally manage stress during labor.
What doesn’t a doula do? Doulas aren’t medical providers. They don’t offer medical advice or perform any type of medical intervention. Doulas also don’t take the place of a woman’s birth partner. In fact, working with a doula can free up the other parent to be more fully present for the mother-to-be. Doulas are not only available to support the mother, their listening skills and knowledge extend to everyone in the family.
Advice from a Doula
Terri Woods is a CLD, CD(DONA) Birth Doula and CAPPA Labor Doula Trainer serving the Central Coast and the creator of SLO DOULA Connection. She was kind enough to shed more light on the practice of being a doula and its value by answering a few questions.
What qualifications should a mother-to-be look for in a doula? Because giving medical advice or providing clinical skills are not within the accepted scope of practice, no licensing or certifications are required to become a doula. However, training, certification and experience may better qualify a doula to meet her client’s needs. Training, certification and experience also come with a higher cost.
It makes sense that a more skilled professional would command a higher fee. In terms of personality, what qualifications should a client look for? Matching the right doula with the right client is important, there’s no one correct answer. What’s important is for a client to feel trust and security, women birth best when they feel safe.
What kinds of services do postpartum doulas provide? Some doulas specialize in postpartum care. Being available for the labor and delivery of several clients is demanding and doesn’t fit into everyone’s schedule. Postpartum doulas may offer support up to two months after birth. They don’t care directly for the infant, but support parents as they build confidence in their own abilities. Postpartum doulas, like all doulas, provide a network of community resources. They may help new mothers connect with breastfeeding advocates or other groups related to parenting.
What one piece of advice would you like to give to expectant mothers? I’d prefer to turn that question around and tell you about the goal of a doula. Doulas help their clients to be seen as individuals—to have their own voices heard and their needs be met in all circumstances. A doula doesn’t “tell” she asks, “What do you need?”
Learn more about doulas, doula training, Terri and the SLO Doula Connection by visiting www.blessedchildbirth.com