What is a doula?
The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.
A Birth Doula
- Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor
- Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth
- Stays with the woman throughout the labor
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decision
- Facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers
- Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of the birth experience
- Allows the woman’s partner to participate at his/her comfort level
A birth doula certified by DONA International is designated by the initials CD(DONA).
Research evidence shows that the quality services of a postpartum doula can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to a family, improve parental satisfaction and reduce the risk of mood disorders.
A Postpartum Doula
- Offers education, companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum fourth trimester
- Assists with newborn care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light household tidying
- Offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary
A postpartum doula certified by DONA International is designated by the initials PCD(DONA).
Why use a doula?
Women have complex needs during childbirth and the weeks that follow. In addition to medical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.
DONA International doulas are educated and experienced in childbirth and the postpartum period. We are prepared to provide physical (non-medical), emotional and informational support to women and their partners during labor and birth, as well as to families in the weeks following childbirth. We offer a loving touch, positioning and comfort measures that make childbearing women and families feel nurtured and cared for.
Numerous clinical studies have found that a doula’s presence at birth
- tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications
- reduces negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience
- reduces the need for pitocin (a labor-inducing drug), forceps or vacuum extraction and cesareans
- reduces the mother’s request for pain medication and/or epidurals
Research shows parents who receive support can:
- Feel more secure and cared for
- Are more successful in adapting to new family dynamics
- Have greater success with breastfeeding
- Have greater self-confidence
- Have less postpartum depression
- Have lower incidence of abuse
How to hire a Doula
A doula can greatly enhance your experience of childbirth and the postpartum months. Your birth doula will be at your side along with your care provider and partner, as part of your team for continuous support during labor and birth. Or maybe you’d like a postpartum doula to help you through the transition into parenthood and family. Either way, finding a good fit for you and your family is critical.
A doula’s education, training, experience and credentials are important. When doulas have DONA International certification, you know that they have had the best education and training available. You can also be assured that they have a strong sense of professionalism and integrity.
You will also want to consider whether you and your partner feel comfortable with an individual doula. You will need to feel that this doula is supportive of your hopes and expectations about labor, childbirth and parenting, in addition to having a strong professional background and credentials. That is why we recommend the following four-step hiring process when hiring a birth or postpartum doula.
Obtain names of DONA International doulas using our easy online doula locator
Questions to Ask a Doula
The following questions will help you decide if a particular doula is right for you.
For any doula
- What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you might consider checking with the organization.)
- Do you have one or more backup doulas for times when you are not available? May we meet her/them?
- What is your fee, what does it include and what are your refund policies?
When interviewing a birth doula
- Tell me about your experience as a birth doula.
- What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners through labor?
- May we meet to discuss our birth plans and the role you will play in supporting me through birth?
- May we call you with questions or concerns before and after the birth?
- When do you try to join women in labor? Do you come to our home or meet us at the place of birth?
- Do you meet with us after the birth to review the labor and answer questions?
When interviewing a postpartum doula
- Tell me about your experience as a postpartum doula.
- What is your philosophy about parenting and supporting women and their families during postpartum?
- May we meet to discuss our postpartum needs and the role you will play in supporting us in the postpartum period?
- May we call you with postpartum questions or concerns before the birth?
- When do your services begin after birth?
- What is your experience in breastfeeding support?
- Have you had a criminal background check, a recent TB test and current CPR certification?
Check credentials and references. If the doula is a DONA International certified doula, you can confirm her certification by using our online doula locator. DONA International certification is a meaningful measure of a doula’s commitment and professionalism.
Conduct an in-person interview. It is a good idea for both you and your partner to meet doula candidates to decide if they are compatible with your family. Are they kind, warm and enthusiastic? Are they knowledgeable? Do they communicate well? Are they good listeners? Are they comfortable with your choices or do they seem to have their own agenda? Do you feel at ease with them?
The way that you feel with a doula is more important than the number of births that they have attended or how many new families they have nurtured. You may want to interview more than one doula and make comparisons before choosing your doula.
Retrieved from www.dona.org on May 30, 2012.