What is a Doula?
A Doula is a trained professional who guides and supports families during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum care of the newborn and mother. A doula might specialize in birth support, postpartum care, or both. Doulas receive training about emotions and mental health, and in many communities they can help women find additional resources for mental health needs during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. The goal of the doula is to help families feel supported and informed throughout pregnancy, postpartum, and after loss.
A birth doula assists a woman and her family before and during childbirth. She provides non-medical emotional and physical support during pregnancy and the birthing process. Doulas work with the rest of your birth team, and are there to assist the mom and support her helpers or partners but not to replace them.
Many cities have Community Doula Programs, which pair women with doula support during childbirth for no fee or at low cost. Women in the community are trained through community doula programs to provide peer support during birth, and often provide support in languages other than English. Contact your local birth centers, hospitals or state Public Health Department to find out if there is a community doula program in your city.
Postpartum doulas provide families information and support on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing, and coping skills for new parents. They might also help with light housework, fix a meal and help incorporate an older child into this new experience.
Questions to Ask a Doula
If you are looking for a birth or postpartum doula, ask them if they have had training or experience in pregnancy or postpartum mental health. Many doulas have had relevant training and education to assist women who are struggling with perinatal mood disorders, but it is important to ask questions so that you can assess the doula's expertise and sensitivity. Informed doulas will know that it is important to work with the whole healthcare team, and they will understand that there is no simple cure for pregnancy or postpartum mood or anxiety disorders.
Finding a Doula
CAPPA: Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association www.cappa.net
Operation Special Delivery: Doulas for military families www.operationspecialdelivery.com
International Childbirth Education Association: www.icea.org
Childbirth International www.childbirthinternational.com
ICTC: International Center for Traditional Childbearing www.ictcmidwives.org
HealthConnect One: Learn about community-based doula programs www.healthconnectone.org
Read more about Doulas