Thoughtful Parenting: Pregnant? You deserve a doula
If you are pregnant and have been preparing for the birth of your child, chances are, you have come across the word doula. What is a doula, anyway? Maybe you’ve heard your friend talk about her doula.
“Isn’t that like a midwife?” you may be thinking. Today, I will give some insight as to what a doula is and does.
The word “doula” is Greek and means “woman’s servant.” These days, this word is used to describe a person who is trained to provide continuous emotional and physical support to the birthing mother and her partner.
A doula is not a midwife. A midwife is the primary care provider for women who choose to have a home birth. The birth doula does not perform clinical tasks. As my mentor puts it, the doula is for the waist up; the doctor or midwife is for the waist down.
A doula trusts the natural process of birth and draws on her experience to reassure and empathize with the mother. She provides evidence-based information to couples so they can make informed decisions regarding their birth plan. Her role is to honor the wishes of the mother without bias.
A common question I hear is, “ I am having my baby at the hospital; why would I need a doula?”
Doctors run busy practices, and nurses are usually caring for multiple patients at a time. There’s just not enough time to get to know each other on a personal level. Your birth doula is the person on your care team who knows you and is there just for you. She knows your birth plan and advocates for you by encouraging you to ask questions. Your doula should facilitate good communication between you and the hospital staff. She will let you know if a change in your birth plan is occurring and can be that calm presence that you need in a strange place, helping to keep you grounded in your birth.
Another comment is, “I have my husband and best friend to help me, I don’t think I need a doula.”
A doula is not there to replace a woman’s partner or family. The birth doula actually guides the partner and helps him or her support the mother. Often, more than one set of hands is needed. Studies show that, when the support person was someone who was not a hospital staff member or in the woman’s social network,
• 28 percent were less likely to have a cesarean section
• 31 percent were less likely to use synthetic oxytocin
• 9 percent were less likely to use pain medication
• 34 percent were less likely to rate their childbirth experience negatively.
How does one go about hiring a doula?
Many birth doulas have business cards displayed about town. There’s a good chance your massage therapist or chiropractor knows one. Some doulas have websites or Facebook pages. You may find one through a pregnancy resource center or Northwest Colorado Health.
Doulas of North America, or DONA, maintains a database of doulas who have completed their certification program. Ask your friends. Do not assume you cannot afford a doula. Some work on a sliding scale, and others who are certifying may help free of charge. It’s a good idea to interview a few doulas to find one that is a good fit for your family.
Sharon Bozarth is a doula and resides in Oak Creek with her partner, their two children and two dogs. For more information, visit her Facebook page, Life Emerging Birth Doula Services, or call 970-819-6541.
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