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What is a Birth Doula?

The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves women" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the early postpartum period. Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

A birth doula...

* Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life

* Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor

* Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth

* Stays with the woman throughout the labor

* Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision

* Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers

* Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience

* Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level

A Birth Doula's role in Postpartum Care

Research evidence shows quality postpartum services can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to a family, improves parental satisfaction and reduces the risk of mood disorders. (PPD) This care:

* offers education, companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum fourth trimester

* assists with newborn care, family adjustment, early breastfeeding suggestions/ observations and makes appropriate referrals when necessary.

* offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary.

How a Doula could benefit you

Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.

DONA International doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.

Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth

* tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications

* reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience

* reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans

* reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals

Research shows parents who receive support can:

* Feel more secure and cared for

* Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics

* Have greater success with breastfeeding

* Have greater self-confidence

* Have less postpartum depression

* Have lower incidence of abuse

Studies have shown that the presence of a doula improves birth in the following ways:

* 50% reduction in cesarean birth

* 30% reduction in requests for pain medication

* 60% fewer requests for epidural anesthesia

* 25% decrease in the length of labor

* Lower postpartum depression rate for mothers

* Increased breast feeding success

* Greater overall satisfaction from the mother about her birth

For inforation about the benefits of having a Doula Visit the Dona International Website It's a great resource!

Other Resources about Birth Doulas

I have several books in my lending library that you may borrow. The books below are resources that my clients have found beneficial and informative.

"Mothering the Mother: How a Doula can help you have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth" - Klaus, Kennell, Klaus

"The Doula Advantage: Your Complete Guide to Having an Empowered and Positive Birth with the Help of a Professional Childbirth Assistant" - Rachel Gurevich

"The Birth Partner" - Penny Simkin

"The Nurturing Touch at Birth" - Perez

"Mothering the New Mother" - Placksin

"The Doula Book" - Klaus and Kennell

How to Hire a Doula

A doula can greatly enhance your experience of childbirth and the postpartum months. Your birth doula will be at your side along with your care provider and partner, as part of your team for continuous support during labor and birth. Or maybe you’d like a postpartum doula to help you through the transition into parenthood and family. Either way, finding a good fit for you and your family is critical.

A doula’s education, training, experience and credentials are important. When doulas have DONA International certification, you know that they have had the best education and training available. You can also be assured that they have a strong sense of professionalism and integrity.

You will also want to consider whether you and your partner feel comfortable with an individual doula. You will need to feel that this doula is supportive of your hopes and expectations about labor, childbirth and parenting, in addition to having a strong professional background and credentials.

While you may hire professionals at any stage of pregnancy, it is best to make a decision and begin the Doula hiring process a few months into your pregnancy. This will allow you to receive the maximum benefit of care and education as well as allow you the opportunity to build a closer relationship with your childbirth professionals.

For inforation about hiring a Doula Visit the Dona International Website It's a great resource!

Questions to Ask a Doula

The following questions taken from can help you decide if a particular doula is right for you.

* Tell me about your experience as a birth doula.

* What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners through labor?

* What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you might consider checking with the certifying organization.)

* May we meet or call you to discuss our birth plans and the role you will play in supporting me through birth?

* May we call you with questions or concerns before and after the birth?

* When do you try to join women in labor? Do you come to our home or meet us at the place of birth?

* Do you meet with us after the birth to review the labor and answer questions?

* What is your fee, what does it include and what are your refund policies?

* Do you arrange for a back-up doula if, for some unforeseen circumstance, you are not able to attend the birth?

Check credentials and references - If the doula is a DONA International certified doula, you can confirm her certification by using the online doula locator on their website DONA International certification is a meaningful measure of a doula’s commitment and professionalism.

Conduct an in-person interview - It is a good idea for both you and your partner to meet doula candidates to decide if they are compatible with your family. Are they kind, warm and enthusiastic? Are they knowledgeable? Do they communicate well? Are they good listeners? Are they comfortable with your choices or do they seem to have their own agenda? Do you feel at ease with them?

Note: The way that you feel with a doula is more important than the number of births that they have attended or how many new families they have nurtured. You may want to interview more than one doula and make comparisons before choosing your doula.

What Doulas DO NOT do:

*Doulas do not perform any medical tasks such as blood pressure readings, fetal heart monitoring or vaginal exams.

*Doulas do not take responsibility for the clinical well being of you or your baby.

*Doulas do not make decisions for you or contradict any medical advice given from your care provider. Doulas will help you get information necessary to make an informed decision and will remind you if you depart from your original birth plan.

*Doulas do not speak to the staff for you regarding healthcare decisions. Doulas will discuss concerns with you and suggest options, but you or your partner will speak on your behalf to the clinical staff.

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