Doulas and Childbirth

What does a doula do?

A doula is a non-medical professional working in the company of medical professionals. Her purpose is to help the birthing woman come as close as she can to the birth she desires, and to leave her with the best possible feelings about herself and her capabilities. Much of this includes non-medical pain relief measures which have been researched and are scientifically or biologically based.

For example, she may suggest certain positions which will aid a woman with back labor, or will widen her pelvis to give the baby more room to descend. She may suggest ways to cope with contractions, such as breathing and movement, or visualization and guided imagery . She may show the woman how to use the shower or labor tub to help relieve pain. She will offer ice chips, or hot or cold packs when necessary. She will perform different types of massage to aid in comfort and relaxation, or play relaxation music. She will adjust lights, get a warm blanket, anything that will help make the woman more comfortable. Without making decisions for the birthing woman, she can provide information so that the woman can make informed choices as to her medical care. Without speaking for the birthing woman, she will aid in communication with caregivers. She will support and inform family members if the woman wishes. And, perhaps most important, a doula will provide a birthing mother with the positive environment and encouragement she needs during her most difficult times.

Doulas are trained in all of these aspects and others, such as helping to initiate nursing, and they are with the birthing mother/couple through labor, delivery, and the initial post-partum period. Doulas don't change shifts or go home to wait, and they only have one patient at a time. They are women who want to help women, who want to "mother the mother".

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©Karen N. Kilson