If you look up the Greek word Doula, it literally means “one who mothers the mother.”
Not too long ago, and still today in some parts of the world, it was commonplace for a pregnant woman to be surrounded by other women during childbearing, childbirth, and even through to many weeks after the birth of the child. Needless to say, a momma welcoming a newborn into her family had plenty of help.
She wouldn’t have to worry about cooking and cleaning, laundry, errands, or even taking care of any children she might already have. Her own mother, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends and other women from maybe the surrounding village would be there to give her time to rest, heal and breastfeed, as well as acclimate to the new life in the family.
To the modern North American woman, this sounds heavenly and, unfortunately, almost unheard of.
Our new mothers today are basically left to fend for themselves with partners usually not having as long a parental leave of absence as the baring mother.
It has also become a custom for families to live quite far away from each other. And, work obligations don’t exactly allow for extended time spent with family or close friends.
Can a doula really work to remedy this grave absence of family and community support? Well, believe it or not, she can do a great deal more!
What Does a Doula Do?
Bearing in mind our modern North American society, having a doula as part of your natural birth (or, really any kind of birth!) becomes not only beneficial to your experience but also crucial to your success.
A doula is basically trained in mothering the mother, in being emotionally supportive as well as providing comfort techniques for a woman in labor. While this may seem like something your OB/GYN, nurse, or midwife can do, this cannot be their focus 100% of the time while you’re in labor. Their primary responsibilities are the health and well-being of mother and baby - the maternity and newborn care, making sure all is well, preventing problems and intervening as needed to ensure safety.
A doula, on the other hand, is completely and solely focused on you and your immediate and ever-changing needs while in labor and even after the baby is born.
Doulas can also bring a significant amount of calm to a natural birth. While many may doubt or worry, it’s a doula’s job to keep the mother focused on what her goals are. And, success rates are high!
She can do seemingly little but very important things like encourage you when you doubt yourself and remind you of your strength. She can massage your shoulders, provide helpful back or pelvic pressure, give you a warm or cool washcloth where you need it; she can remind you and your partner to eat, drink, rest, take a walk, get into the bath or shower, and also help you get into positions that can ease labor.
An experienced doula will know what mothering and labor support to give you. Your doula can crack open a window for you when it gets too hot, hold your hand, breathe with you when you need to relax and ground yourself, as well as vocalize with you according to your natural sounds - this helps reinforce your own coping rituals.
A doula is a huge asset to you!
While a doula is not hired in order to replace a partner—not at all!—she is there to bring comfort to nerves, doubts, and fears. These feelings have no place in a delivery room and a doula can help keep everyone calm and provide a sense of normalcy, compassionate support and love to every intimidating step of the process.
A wonderful doula knows when to step in, and when to give you and your partner privacy and encourage slow dancing and love making.
A doula doesn’t make decisions for a mother and her partner. While she may suggest certain circumstances or ideas based off of what she knows of the parents and their goals, her only objective is to coach a mother through what the mother has already decided she wants for her childbirth.
A doula can, on the other hand, advocate for a mother, making sure that the new parents’ goals are respected and met even while the mom might be in labor and unable to advocate for herself. She can help a mom prenatally find resources to make informed decisions and formulate her birth preferences.
A doula’s duties don’t stop after delivery! Postpartum doulas can help to manage house while the new mother gets some oh-so-sorely-needed rest.
A doula can run errands, keep the home tidy and neat, even look after any other young ones a momma might have. Also, most postpartum doulas are well trained in the care of newborn babies and can assist with breastfeeding and the like.
A doula is there to provide you with resources and recommendations, support and a voice, and, most essentially, the tender loving care and nurturing that a new mom needs.
The Benefits of Having a Doula
It’s very easy for us to overlook and take for granted the extensive amount of benefits there are in receiving something as simple as help or support. While receiving that help and support merely sounds nice, there is actually an impressive amount of scientific research that supports the real and profound benefits of having a doula.
There’s a great amount of emotional and mental advantages to having a doula, namely a mother’s self-confidence and –esteem. Her ability to cope well with a natural birth as well as to maintain positive feelings surrounding the pregnancy is greatly increased.
There is also, however, significant benefits that have to do with the actual physical health of the mother and baby! It is, indeed, no surprise that emotional and mental health are directly tied to physical health.
Having a doula has proven to promote shorter and easier labors, an easier time adapting to motherhood with enhanced skills as well as less postpartum depression which is huge!
The support of a doula can actually decrease the need for invasive interventions like cesarean, medications, or using forceps and the like for delivery. Babies are also reported to be in much healthier states, have increased breastfeeding success, with less rates of intensive care when the mother has had a doula.
I, myself, always recommend moms have a doula or doula-like support person, and my rate of women needing to be transferred to a hospital is as little as 7%. And, unfortunately, these are usually first-time moms who decide to not have a doula.
Some of the most successful people and top athletes in the world have not just one but multiple coaches for every aspect of their lives. It only makes sense to have a personal coach— fully focused on you, your needs, your desires, your capabilities, your potential, and your goals—for such a truly significant event as birth.
Related article: It Takes a Village Birth Story - A Doula that Made a Difference
How Do You Become a Doula?
With providing profound experiences being in the very job description of a doula, becoming one is more of a calling than it is a “job.” And, more and more women are choosing to have a doula to help them through their perinatal period.
Pragmatically speaking, becoming a doula requires certification which is accomplished by completing a short training course, but ongoing continuing education is not only customary but encouraged. Many doulas take my Love Your Birth online course for their certification, as it helps them better help the women they serve.
There are many different programs and organizations to choose from actually.
A quick search can have you in touch with organizations in your local area but also around the world! If becoming a doula is your passion, here are some excellent training programs with different flavors - see what feels right for you.
CAPPA, for example, is known as “one of the first and most comprehensive perinatal organizations in the world.”
DONA International, on the other hand, has a training program “known as the world’s best.”
The Matrona is a wonderful training program known for its holistic approach.
Prodoula is a training program for the modern women interested in elevating the professionalism of the career.
What you may notice in many doula training programs, if not all, is the warm and welcoming atmosphere that encourages you to learn and to train at your own pace.
Many programs allow you to get right into the thick of things, with having you attend multiple labors so that you can immediately decide for yourself whether this is truly the calling for you. Quite a number of programs also allow a type of self-study in which you can complete the full program at your own pace. Most doula training can be completed in a weekend.
Some doulas make a full-time career out of this passion of theirs while others can take it more slowly if they wish and work more part-time.
Related article: Why You (Yes, YOU) Should Become a Doula
Doulas can create the most harmonious and profound birthing experiences for a mother, especially for those births that are natural.
A doula can really keep you in touch with the powerful realization that you’re bringing life into the world. Some doulas lead deeply spiritual experiences like mother blessing ceremonies, and foster community by leading a variety of support groups. Doulas tend to bring a variety of other modalities to you, depending on their additional training, from placenta encapsulation, to massage therapy, reiki, and essential oils. Some get certified in lactation counseling and support, childbirth education, teaching safe baby wearing, prenatal and postpartum yoga. Many bring labor support tools like the birth ball, a Rebozzo, and portable birth tub.
Physical and mental benefits aside, a doula can create the kind of environment that shelters and protects a mother who is stronger and more capable than she realizes as well as sensitive and vulnerable during this special time, so that the mother can, in turn, concentrate on having one of the most empowering experiences ever.
Taking an honest look at the possibility of a natural childbirth? Visit my Love Your Birth course webpage to take the self-assessment today. And, let me help you put all of the odds in your favor!
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Understand the sensations of your body and connect your intuition with how your body is communicating and leading you towards what to do during labor
Tap into your inner calm to deeply relax yourself,letting go of busy, stressful and fearful thoughts on demand for the health of baby
Speak your truth from your heart in a way that deepens your relationships, sets clear boundaries, and has people listen to you and support you before, during and after pregnancy
Trust yourself, connect with your body wisdom andcommunicate with baby in belly
Connect with natural time and sync your body and mind up with your unique biological clock for ease from pregnancy to postpartum
Reprogram negative patterns, stories, and beliefs that undermine your confidence, strength and self trust so you can rock your birth
Physicians and midwives around the world recommend my teachings to their pregnant clients and many Doulas across the country learn the secrets of blissful birthing from me to supplement their Doula Training & Certification process!
To learn more, visit: LOVE YOUR BIRTH Online Childbirth Course!
It is based on my years of experience, as a midwife and yoga teacher, helping thousands of women tap into their calm and live and birth from a place of grounded relaxation and joy.