What does a doula do?

A growing trend in childbirth is the use of a doula. However, having a doula around before, during and after childbirth is not a new concept. Mothers throughout history have often used a support person to help them through childbirth, whether a trusted elder woman in the village or a sister.

When looking for a doula, be sure to find someone who is experienced and recommended, as well as someone who matches your birth and parenting philosophy and style. However, be advised that doulas are not required to have any medical training, despite the fact that they offer medically related advice during labor.

A birth doula specializes in working with a new or experienced mother in the months leading up to the birth, as well as the birth of the child. This doula is well versed and experienced in helping a mother decide on a birth plan that suits the needs of the mother and partner, as well as helping out in other areas such as preparing the baby registry, preparation for breastfeeding and preparing for the labor itself. With a new mother especially, the thought of labor can be daunting and scary, mostly because it's a new experience. A doula can assist in helping the mother understand about the process of labor, answer any questions and ease any anxiety prior to the start of the first contractions.

Once in labor, a doula is an important part of the experience. The doula is in the labor room and serves as an advocate for the mother's birth plan and advocate. Since the doula works with the mother prior to the start of labor, the doula can be confident that she knows the wishes of the mother and ensure those wishes are carried out, as long as it doesn't risk the mother's or baby's health. The doula also serves as a calming force in the room and can assist in easing anxiety during transition and labor. The doula also works to assist in the communication between the mother and the partner during the birth.

After the baby is born, a postpartum doula can provide invaluable help during the "fourth trimester," or the first three months of life. Postpartum doulas help with breastfeeding, as well as provide advice on sleep habits, breastfeeding issues, weight and safety questions. Postpartum doulas will follow up with visits to the home, as well as phone calls and even email assistance for the new mother and partner. Further, these doulas are experienced in seeing signs of postpartum depression and other health issues in the mother, which sometimes are overlooked.

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