Sometimes we forget that not everyone uses the language of childbirth as regularly as we do. It’s one thing to hear the word “doula” – it’s another entirely to understand the role she might play in your labor, delivery, and recovery.
A birth doula, or childbirth assistant, offers non-medical, one-on-one care during both pregnancy and the birth of your baby. She provides you with the nurturing care and support that traditional obstetrics doesn’t always include.
A birth doula supports you and your partner by providing the knowledge and training you’ll both need to be calm and comfortable during labor. Her presence allows your partner a greater sense of relaxation and therefore an increased ability to care for you on an emotional level. A birth doula will employ a variety of techniques, such as massage, breathing patterns and vocalization, counter pressure, visualization, relaxation, and advocacy.
Your birth doula will be available to meet with you for prenatal instruction, offer phone support, provide early labor support in your home, and work with you throughout active labor and birth in your chosen setting. She will make at least one follow-up visit during your early postpartum period.
A postpartum doula provides care for the family after the baby is born, offering invaluable emotional and physical support during a time of great transition.
Postpartum doulas are experienced in and knowledgeable about pregnancy, birth, postpartum care, and infant care. They assist as both mother and infant learn breastfeeding. They provide general family and household support, including assistance with other children in the home and light cleaning and cooking. They do not take over care of the baby or do heavy housecleaning.
Mothers who employ a postpartum doula experience increased rates of success with breastfeeding. They tend to experience less exhaustion, frustration, and apprehension during the early weeks, as well as having a greater understanding of their newborns’ emotional and physical needs. A doula’s presence also leads to reduced rates of postpartum depression or a shorter duration of depression if it occurs.
Having a knowledgeable resource in your home on a regular basis is highly reassuring, especially in the first weeks after giving birth.