A doula is someone (usually a woman) trained to provide emotional, educational, and physical support in labor and birth or in the first six weeks after the baby comes. She is not a clinical care provider (so she does not do prenatal care, for example, nor does she evaluate the progress of your labor), but she provides much needed help and assistance as you go through these amazing life experiences.
Birth Doula Services
A birth doula is there to support your personal goals and philosophy for your birth, and to augment the support you receive from family and friends. She has met with you prenatally and knows what kind of birth experience you are hoping to have. She also knows what your partner/husband wants and what he or she needs to be able to help you while still having his/her own experience of the birth.
She has a ‘bag of tricks’ that she can use to help you cope with your labor and birth, including massage, application of warm compresses, position changes, as well as strategies for making the most of all the twists and turns of the birth experience. She supports other members of your team – your husband, partner, family members or friends who are at the birth. She facilitates communication with your doctor or midwife and with the nurses at the hospital. She will help you draft a written birth plan, if you desire, and can provide education and resources that address your particular situation.
In clinical trials, doulas have been shown to shorten the length of labor, to improve birth outcomes, and to improve satisfaction with birth experiences. Women also tend to be happier with their partners, smile at their babies more, and in general, feel better about themselves as mothers when they have had a doula.
Postpartum Doula Services
A postpartum doula is a trained and experienced woman who specializes in helping families make a smooth transition into life with a new baby. Your postpartum doula might assist you with physical and emotional recovery after the birth, provide information and instruction on newborn care and breastfeeding support. Or, she may help you organize the practical household assistance that you need. She will make sure that you and your partner are taking care of yourselves while you are taking care of your new baby.
The new family goes through enormous transitions in the first year, and these changes are especially intense in the first six to twelve weeks after the birth. This three month period after birth is properly called “the fourth trimester,” signifying the continuing gestation of the new family. It takes newborns three months to fully adapt to life outside the womb and most new families find it takes three months to begin to feel settled in their “new normal.” Who wouldn’t want a helper, a mentor, and a guide to what that new normal will be like? That is your postpartum doula.
Research supports that parents adapt more successfully to their new roles when supported during the postpartum period. In particular, Mothers who have support are more likely to succeed at breastfeeding, are less likely to develop postpartum depression, are more confident in their parenting, and have less incidence of abuse than mothers who do not have support.