World Doula Week takes place March 22-28 every year. If you live in America, it’s possible you haven’t been exposed to the concept. It is a unique job that falls neither under health care, nor counseling, but somewhere in-between. Here you can get a quick run-down on what a doula is, where they practice, the difference they make during labor, and where to find them.
1. What is it?
Doula is a Greek word meaning “woman who serves.” In modern day, it’s a trained professional (typically female) who assists expectant parents with physical, emotional, and informational support from prenatal to postpartum. Birth in a hospital setting can result in decisions being made without true informed consent, and make transition to parenthood harder for parents who feel they’ve had little control up to the child being placed in their arms. Unlike a midwife, they do not have medical training, and do not provide medical healthcare. A doula takes the form of cheerleader, advocate, confidante or what best fits the parent’s needs.
2. When or Where is a Doula Used?
A doula can be present for whichever kind of birth needed – hospital, home, holistic or otherwise. The doula helps guide the laborer through their own personal birth plan, mitigating stress for the mother. Doula can be used as early as conception as an advocate and support through OBGYN appointments or purely for labor support. Most also offer postpartum services, such as breastfeeding instruction.
3. How The United States Birthing Practice Affects Doulas
The U.S. has a distinctly different approach to birth, compared to other developed nations. The U.S. has the highest mother and infant birth fatalities and one of the highest cesarean rates. With the U.S. being the most expensive country to give birth in, it’s confusing why the fatalities and medical interventions are so high. The media paints birth as a traumatic event and celebrity culture of “too posh to push” and therefore makes cesarean birth look like the higher class option. The ineffectiveness of the U.S. birthing practice is more commonplace knowledge than it was previously and parents are looking for compassionate care.
4. Why Hire A Doula?
While a doula is typically an out-of-pocket expense, there are plenty of reasons to involve a doula in your birth. Studies show that mothers who have consistent support through labor are more likely to have vaginal birth than those without. Since the laborer is less likely to have negative feelings towards birth, the use of epidurals, vacuums assisted birth, forceps, and cesareans also drop. The main focus of a doula is to keep the mother in labor comfortable, heard, and encouraged. With this emotional support, oxytocin, a natural pleasure inducing and pain relieving brain chemical, helps ease the pain of birth. Additionally, newborns born with doulas present typically score higher on their newborn health tests (APGAR) than those without.
5. Where Can You Find a Doula?
A simple Google search with “doula” and your city should yield results. Additionally organizations such as DONA can provide assistance with the search. The cost for a doula will depend on your city, their experience, credentials etc. If you find one, student-doulas who are in the process of receiving their certification, may lend their services for minimal fees or even free of charge.
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