By Kerry Stevens, CD (DONA)
When I tell people that I am a certified doula, I often get blank stares. Having a doula by your side during your labor has become more popular, but many still have not heard of us, or know what we do.
In labor support terminology, “birth doula” refers to a supportive woman (not a friend or loved one) professionally trained to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth. A doula offers help and advice on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. She also helps families gather information about the course of their labor and their options. Perhaps the most crucial role of the doula is providing continuous emotional reassurance and comfort. Doulas specialize in non-medical skills and do not perform clinical tasks. Most importantly, doulas do not make decisions for their clients; they do not project their own values and goals onto the laboring woman. A doula also helps protect the woman’s memory of her birth and often times will write a birth story. A doula’s goal is to help the family have a safe and satisfying childbirth as the laboring couple defines it and will help facilitate a positive experience.
With the presence of a doula, studies prove that a woman’s labor might be shorter with fewer complications, and that babies are healthier and breastfeed longer and more easily. Who doesn’t want a shorter labor??!?!
Any woman having a baby is a great candidate for having a doula, no matter if she has other support people, wants a natural childbirth or not. A doula is there to help the mother have a great experience and achieve her desired positive birth.
One might also benefit from having a postpartum doula. She is a person who comes into your home and provides education, support, and tools to help as you adjust to your new family. She can help with everything from meal prep to newborn care.
I had the most amazing birth experience – unfortunately not because I was educated, but because I was stubborn. I reflected and wondered why so many women in America are so afraid of birth. It made me sad to think that I had the most powerful experience of my life and so many women are missing out on that. So I decided to do something about it and try to help one woman at a time see birth as the positive experience it should be.
We are fortunate enough to have a local association called PADA (Piedmont Area Doula Association). Visit padanc.org to find out more about what we do or to find a doula or postpartum doula in the area!