what is a doula?

She was present when we needed her, and became almost invisible at just the right moment to give us space and enjoy the process as a couple. She was the emotional anchor that kept us present in the most transformative day of our lives. We are forever grateful"

Richard

New Father

A birth doula is a trained labor companion that provides the birthing person and support person (if applicable) continuous emotional support, physical comfort and help in receiving evidence based information and resources during the prenatal period, during the birth and just after childbirth. A birth doula understands that birth will be one of the most transformative times in your life, a time that will be remembered for the rest of your life and can effect you greatly.  A birth doula trusts your instincts to know what is best for you and your very unique and individual pregnancy and birth.  A birth doula plays a vital role during the prenatal months offering continuous emotional support and any resources you may need to plan for your dream birth.  A birth doula understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a person in labor. They will stay by your side throughout the entire labor and for the first couple of hours after your baby is born.  A birth doula can help facilitate communication between the laboring person, partner, anyone else attending the birth and the clinical care providers.  A birth doula perceives their role as one who nurtures and protects the memory of one’s birth story.

A postpartum doula offers a tremendous amount of emotional support to the entire family welcoming the new baby (or babies) home. This includes, but is not limited to, supporting siblings, grandparents, pets and anyone else in your family, during this tender and exciting time of adjustment. A postpartum doula helps each parent to develop their own styles of nurturing and bonding with baby and helps you find coping skills that work best for each of you. A postpartum doula is a non-judgemental presence in your home who will offer you evidence based practices and then help you navigate what works best for your family and your individual needs. They will never insist that you care for your baby in any particular way. A postpartum doula will support in the birthing person’s physical recovery. A postpartum doula will make sure everyone is properly nourished and hydrated and will help in making small, healthy meals. They will also do light house-keeping (such as dishes and the children’s laundry), and run errands. A postpartum doula will assist with nursing, bottle-feeding and/or pumping. A postpartum doula can teach you how to care for your newborn (e.g., swaddling, diapering, bathing, soothing, baby-wearing, sleeping…) and help you find the ways that work best for each of you individually.  A postpartum doula will listen and support. They will offer any needed referrals and/or community support resources needed or wanted. A postpartum doula’s job is to work their-self out of a job so that you feel empowered and confident as parent(s) without them in your home.

The best evidence…

The best evidence about the benefits of continuous support during labor from a person that was neither a member of the hospital staff nor someone in the birthing person’s social network and provided one-to-one supportive care (such as a birth doula) resulted in the following:

  • 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
  • 28% decrease in the risk of C-section
  • 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
  • 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

These results are from the most recent and largest systematic review of continuous labor support of over 15,000 birthing persons who participated in 21 randomized controlled trials.  (Hodnett and colleagues 2011