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Doulas - Helping Mothers Before and During Birth

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/24/2006 | Parenting
The first time a woman is pregnant is a time of anticipation, excitement, fear and sometimes, sorrow. It is a maze of emotions that can be unexpected and overwhelming. Most mothers can be confident in the chances of having a healthy and safe pregnancy and labor, but despite the marvels of medical technology there is an emotional component that is missing from the care of a pregnant woman and her needs before and during labor.

Doulas offer a service to provide this essential care for women; women who may not have close friends or family that can answer their questions or be the emotional support they need.

What is a Doula?

The word 'doula' comes from a Greek term referring to the highest ranking female slave in a household. It is quite likely that this woman helped the lady with her birth and helped care for the woman and her new baby.

Today, a doula helps to inform a woman about the birthing process as well as stay by her side and support her during the birth and when she comes home.

What Can a Doula Do?

A doula is usually not a medically trained individual. Her role in the birthing process is to physically and emotionally assist the mother in a nurturing role rather than a medical one.

Doulas recognize the importance of the birthing experience on a woman's life and memory. The doula's support and comfort are focused on easing the emotional anxieties associated with labor and birth. Her knowledge of the birthing process will enable her to educate the parents as well as anticipate the needs of the woman when she is in labor.

The doula will also assist the father in his role in the birth, offering guidance for helping the laboring mother. She will help the partner to learn techniques that will soothe the mother, like massage or counter pressure. She will also help them create a birthing plan and facilitate communications with the medical staff regarding it.

How Do I Find a Doula? Do I Need One?

A doula is only one part of a woman's childbirth team. A woman may have a supportive partner and still feel she'd like the additional assistance of a doula. Understanding her role is a supportive one may ease the anxiety of both the mother and the partner.

You can find information about doulas from your hospital, childbirth educator or local support group, like Le Leche League. The price will vary depending on the doula's experience and local rates. Ask for recommendations from other mothers and interview several until you find a good match. function SubmitRating(btn) { ratingchecked = false; if (btn.form.aRating0.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating1.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating2.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating3.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating4.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (ratingchecked) { btn.form.btnRating.value=btn.value; btn.form.submit(); } else { alert("Be sure a rating value has been selected to continue."); } }