How a birth doula helps with delivery

If doctors and midwives are responsible for care, doulas are responsible for support. Strictly speaking, a doula is not a medical figure, but rather a pillar of strength that will help you handle the emotional and psychological side of pregnancy and delivery. In essence, she's a professional version of the female helpers -- mothers, sisters and friends -- that a woman traditionally relies on for comfort and encouragement through labor, delivery and beyond.

It's not imperative that you use the services of a birth doula or a postpartum doula, and although they can be of immense help for some, drastically reducing the need for c sections and pain relief, others may not benefit as much from the relationship. Learn why doulas are typically used and how to find the right type of doula to make your birth experience and transition into motherhood less strenuous and more fulfilling.


About Doulas and their Work

For those who don't have a comprehensive support system, a doula will fill in where you need her most. Many women have a partner and some family to help them through the challenges and fears of pregnancy, labor and delivery, but even then trepidation and anxiety can muddle their efforts without an experienced and confident figure to reassure everyone. Therefore, a doula is not meant to replace a loving partner or close family, but rather complement the whole system with a fantastic bedside manner and intimate understanding of the pregnancy and birth experience.

Although you can count on a doula to help gather information about your options for pregnancy, labor and delivery, there is a limit to her expertise. Larger medical questions surrounding the possibility of birth defects or genetic complications are outside the doula's territory; if you're experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, you may want to opt for some genetic counseling to help you with your decisions and preparation.

Finding the Right Type of Doula

Some doulas will offer support from conception to birth and beyond, while others tend to specialize in one aspect of the journey into motherhood. A birth doula provides non-medical support during labor and delivery, with techniques like massage, encouragement, positive positioning and tips for the father or partner to focus their efforts. Although their job technically ends when the baby arrives, many birth doulas will follow up with mothers after the birth to ensure they have the support they need, from breastfeeding help to general emotional encouragement.

In contrast, a postpartum doula offers her services after the baby is born, when the new parents are settling into their new life with their infant. She may visit the home for only a few days after the birth or several weeks, depending on the particular case. The postnatal doula tends to help more with the little things in your daily routine, like light housework and errands, plus the companionship she offers will help you recover from the birth experience and cope with your new role.

Although many people believe that a doula is indispensable to the birth experience, cost is an issue for some. If you can't afford a private, certified doula, check with your hospital or pregnancy association for volunteer doula recommendations. A crisis pregnancy center doula may be the best choice for you, so contact your local organization to see what they're able to offer you.