Doulas are people, usually women, who assist with childbirth. Unlike midwives, they do not have formal medical training, but they are trained and experienced in labor support. This means that doulas perform the tasks of attending to the mother’s physical and emotional comfort in order to make birthing easier. A doula cannot substitute for trained midwife or doctor, because she isn’t able to give medical assistance like heart rate checks or exams. A doula does provide a great deal of experience in helping birthing mothers to assist in providing a smooth transition for the baby.
Having a doula present at the birth means that your danger of having to have a cesarean section, episiotomy, or delivery by forceps is lower. A doula’s training in assisting with births helps you cope with pain, which will reduce your possible need for medication. Doulas are able to give advice gained from experience that will help you become more confident about breastfeeding, mothering your child in the early months of life, and yourself as a capable mother. Women who have a doula present at their birthing are also more likely to view the entire experience positively.
When looking for a doula, it’s important to make sure that you find one who is a good fit with you and your partner. This means that you should interview her and spend some time talking to her. Also, find out about her training and experience. Some doulas are certified with professional organizations like DONA International, which guarantees a certain level of training and expertise. There are a few steps that can help you choose the doula who will be present when you give birth.
First, obtain names of doulas that you might wish to work with. You can do this either by going through a professional organization, or by speaking to women you know who have had a doula present when they gave birth. Then, conduct a phone interview with prospective doulas. Ask what their training has been like, what their philosophy on birthing is, and where they prefer to assist with the labor – at home or at the hospital. This information will tell you whether or not you feel comfortable with the doula. Remember that your relationship with a birthing assistant is a close and important one, and that she won’t be able to help you if you’re not relaxed around her. Also find out what the doula’s fee will be, and how many meetings are included in that fee. It’s generally a good idea to meet in person with your doula at least once before the birth, to get a feel for her and get to know her.
You can also hire a doula for postpartum care only. In this case, many of the questions are the same, but you should focus your questions on support after the birth, especially on breastfeeding support and additional services. Find out if your doula works with other people who will provide backup service when she isn’t available. After you have found a doula that you are comfortable with, remember to check her credentials and references, and conduct an in person interview. Having a doula present at the birth will make your labor easier, and allow you to have a more pleasant experience. A doula is a constant presence, available to tend to your physical and emotional comfort, something the doctor and nurse can’t always do.