Baby StepsFamily Health

What Is a Doula?

There are many different ways to approach childbirth in the United States. Though hospital births are glamorized in TV and media, home births make up about 10 percent of births in the U.S. Midwives – medically trained health professionals who assist in labor, birth and post-birth – typically assist in home births and are usually accompanied by a doula. Here are some FAQs about who doulas are and what they do:

What’s a doula? A doula is a professional trained to assist a woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born.

Are doulas medically trained? A doula is a trained and experienced, non-medical professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother during the entire process of childbirth.

Why would I want a doula in addition to my partner? Evidenced-based birth studies have shown having a doula can result in:
• 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
• 28% decrease in the risk of C-section
• 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
• 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
• 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
• 34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

What are doulas trained in? There are several things different doulas specialize in (grief, breastfeeding, etc.), but most commonly, doulas are trained to:
• Help the pregnant woman (and her partner) understand the labor experience
• Stick to the birth plan by offering encouragement, emotional and physical support
• Offer non-judgmental support for the mother’s postpartum recovery
• Educate mothers on infant soothing, breastfeeding, sleep schedules, diaper changing and other primary care topics
• Help the family adjust to the new baby, perform light housework and prepare some family meals
• Suggest coping skills for new parents and refer families to resources for additional support

Where do I find a doula? DONA International and DoulaMatch are good databases. Be sure to always check credentials, ask for references and interview candidates in-person to make sure that they’re the right fit for your entire birthing experience.

Can I still have a doula if I choose not to use a midwife and go to a hospital? Yes, you can always have a doula with you in the hospital room when you’re in labor. If you’ve discussed your birth plan with them, they can make sure your wishes are upheld throughout the entire experience.

At Any Baby Can, we offer resources for parents, including soon-to-be moms and dads. For more information, visit anybabycan.org or give us a call at 512.454.3743.

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