Many expectant parents who desire extra support beyond that provided by their medical birth team often hire a doula to provide assistance during the time before, during and after their baby’s birth. A doula is a trained professional who provides information, physical support and emotional support to her clients but does not provide medical services. Research published in The American Journal of Managed Care showed that the support of a doula can help reduce the need for C-section births and reduce the need for having labor induced.
A birth doula is there to support her client during baby’s birth
A birth doula is there to provide support, comfort and information but not to make decisions for her client during labor and delivery. Once you select your doula and hire her, she will meet with you to become familiar with your birth plan or to help you write one. A birth plan is the story of what you would consider the ideal birthing experience. Doulas guide clients through the process of planning the birth by providing balanced information, after becoming familiar with the details of her client’s pregnancy and any complications that have occurred. Let your doula know which childbirth classes you have taken so she knows what types of breathing and relaxation exercises you learned and can coach you through them once labor begins.
During labor and delivery, a doula does not try to take the place of her client’s partner, if he wishes to be the birth coach. She is there then to ‘coach the coach’ and advise the partner on how to best meet the needs of his laboring partner. A doula can teach her client’s partner how to provide comfort measures, like massage, and is there to stand in for him when he gets tired and needs to step out for a coffee break. Some birth doulas are also certified lactation consultants and can help get breastfeeding off to a good start after delivery.
Even if you are having a C-Section birth, a doula can still be a valuable member of your birth team. For clients having a C-Section birth, the doula can help her client understand what is happening in each step of the procedure and provide emotional support. She then helps ensure her client is comfortable when she is in recovery after the procedure.
Some doulas help the mother before and after baby’s birth
In addition to being a birth doula, some doulas also serve as antenatal doulas and postpartum doulas. An antenatal doula supports expectant moms who are on bed rest by doing light housework and helping provide any information her client needs to be able to make decisions. This is in addition to being a calm, caring source of emotional support during this difficult time. A postpartum doula helps a new mom in the first few weeks after bringing baby home from the hospital and some postpartum doulas are also lactation consultants who can help resolve any breastfeeding troubles. A postpartum doula may even teach baby massage techniques and help care for a fussy baby.
Give yourself enough time to find the doula right for you
It is a good idea to start looking for a doula a few months before your due date. Ask candidates for their resumes, which should include their certifications. The professional training and certification for doulas is provided by organizations such as DONA International or CAPPA. To find a doula, search the DONA International database of certified doulas at dona.org or ask your midwife for a referral.
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