What is a Labor Doula? A doula is a person who attends the birthing family before, during, and just after the birth of the baby. The certified doula is trained to provide non-medical emotional support from home to hospital, ease the transition into the hospital environment, and be there through changing hospital shifts and alternating provider schedules. The doula serves as a labor coach and information source to give the mother and her partner the added comfort of additional support throughout the entire labor. She encourages and promotes self-advocacy, informed choice, and excellent communication between the mother and care providers. There are a variety of titles used by women offering these kinds of services such as "birth assistant," "labor support specialist" and "doula".
What Does a Labor Doula Do? Typically, doulas meet with the parents in the second or third trimester of the pregnancy to get acquainted and to learn about prior birth experiences and the history of this pregnancy. She may help you develop a birth plan, teach relaxation, visualization, and breathing skills useful for labor. Most importantly, the doula will provide comfort, support, and information about birth options.
A doula can help the woman to determine prelabor from true labor and early labor from active labor. At a point determined by the woman in labor, the doula will come to her and assist her by:
Helping her to rest and relax
Providing support for the woman's partner
Encouraging nutrition and fluids in early labor
Assisting her in using a variety of helpful positions and comfort measures
Constantly focus on the comfort of both the woman and her partner
Helping the environment to be one in which the woman feels secure and confident
Providing her with information on birth options
A doula works cooperatively with the health care team. In the event of a complication, a doula can be a great help in understanding what is happening and what options the family may have. The doula may also help with the initial breastfeeding and in preserving the privacy of the new family during the first hour after birth.
What is a Postpartum Doula? The Postpartum Doula is a trained professional that offers non-medical physical, emotional, and spiritual, support to a new mother and the rest of the family. Postpartum Doulas also offer breastfeeding support, light household maintenance, family nurturing and instruction to mom and/or other family members in the care of a newborn. The Postpartum Doula’s job is to make the transition to parenthood easier for new parents, to help mom during her recovery period and to ascertain what the family needs help with and provide the instruction.
What does a Postpartum Doula do? The main objective of the Postpartum Doula’s role is not to take over complete care of the newborn, but to educate and support the family so that they will feel empowered to care for their newborn themselves. Postpartum Doulas do NOT offer any medical advice or perform any medical or clinical procedures, but instead can offer parents referrals to appropriate studies and published books. Postpartum doulas should be good with children, patient, non-judgmental, and knowledgeable about newborn care and breastfeeding. The postpartum doula may offer the following:
What is the purpose of Childbirth Education? CAPPA states that, "Since the beginning of time women have shared their experiences about birth with other women. Viewed as a part of life, birth wisdom was passed from generation to generation by grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts and those who attended births. When birth moved to the hospital setting, much of this woman-to-woman education was lost. The advent of formal childbirth education classes in the 1960's allowed women and their partners to have an academic-style introduction to the birth wisdom that was once shared organically. Today, expectant parents need more than just academics. Today's birthing woman needs a place where connecting with her baby, other expectant families, her partner is honored and supported. She needs access to an expert who can answer questions regarding information she's already acquired. Perhaps most importantly, she needs support and encouragement to acknowledge the inner wisdom her body provides to birth her baby in the manner that is best for her."
Taking a childbirth education class will help you and your partner better understand the process of childbirth, educate you on your options, and will facilitate empowerment through education so you will have the ability to make informed decisions. Participating in a group class will provide an opportunity for you to connect with others going through their pregnancy and birth at the same time as you. That connection is likely to form a support network, which is vital to expecting and new families.