When I tell people that I’m training to become a doula, I usually get a reaction along these lines: “Oh, cool! That’s awesome. What’s a doula again? Is that like a midwife?” And I’m always more than happy to explain! The way I see it, the more people know and understand about doulas, the more birthing women will ask for a doula, and the more doula support will be available to birthing women. It’s a win-win situation.
So, in the interest of clearing things up, a doula is a trained professional who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to birthing families. By skillfully using massage, counter pressure, relaxation, and deep breathing techniques with her client, a doula helps the mother ride her pressure waves and get into her own beautiful birthing groove. A doula’s understanding of the birthing process allows her to suggest optimal positions for laboring and pushing and give the parents reassuring insight into the process. If interventions are needed, a doula helps her clients understand what is happening and what to expect. It’s the doula that understands the birthing family’s birth wishes and it is she who will help make these a reality. Whether it’s reminding the nursing staff to speak quietly and leave the lights low, or asking the birthing mother if she is comfortable with a suggested intervention, a doula cares and remembers the parents’ goals and desires. A doula provides the continuity of care that laboring women crave and that is often missing in modern hospital settings.
With all of this attention and care, it’s important to understand that medical care is beyond a doula’s scope of practice. A doula will not perform vaginal exams, hook up an IV line, examine the newborn baby, suture any tears, or administer medications. All of those tasks are what keep your midwife or doctor so busy. Freed from these concerns, a doula is able to focus all of her attention on the birthing mother–her comfort, her safety, her wishes, and her concerns.
A doula is a wonderful addition to a birth team. She does not stand in place of a nurse, a midwife, or a doctor. Instead, she complements the valuable services they provide and helps round out the birthing team. With all of the birthing options in Utah–from home births, to birth center births, to hospital births–a doula can help birthing mothers wherever they choose to birth.
Hopefully, this explanation will help more mothers understand the role of a doula and why they might want to consider hiring one to join their birth team. Questions or comments? Feel free to comment below.