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Consider a Birth Doula To Improve Childbirth Experience
In Greek, the word doula means a woman who personally serves another woman. A labor and birth doula helps a woman through the birth experience, from before the baby comes to shortly after. So do you really want or need a doula at your baby's birth? I talked with Jennifer Rokeby-Mayeux, a certified doula, to find out what it's all about.
LD: What is a doula?
JRM: A birth doula provides emotional support, comfort measures and offers suggestions to a woman and her partner throughout childbirth. A postpartum doula offers the same emotional support to parents as they transition into life with a new baby.
LD: How are some ways a doula can help expecting parents?
JRM: In general doulas are good listeners, and can offer suggestions, answer questions or guide the family to a needed resource. You can find helpful statistics at http://www.dona.org/mothers/why_use_a_doula.php highlighting the benefits of doula care.
LD: What are some tools doulas use in their work?
JRM: First it is important for everyone to know that a doula does not perform any medical procedures. Birth doulas understand the birthing process and can suggest positions and other techniques to help labor progress or lessen discomfort. Doula also can educate parents on all their options and advocate for the parents wishes. Many birth doulas have a "birth bag" that they take with them to every birth. A doulas bag is a varied as the doula-some bring lots of stuff and others bring only a small bag. Common items found in a birth bag are washable massagers, the parents birth plan, unscented or lightly scented lotion for massage, CD's that promote relaxation or visualization, mints or gum (for the doula or the partner), birth ball (large exercise ball commonly found at gyms), rice or corn sock (this should be new and used only one laboring mother).
LD: How responsive are doctors and nurses to having doulas present at births?
JRM: Some physicians, nurses and midwives are very supportive of families having a doula. Others view the birth doula as an interruption in their routine. It is important that families talk with their care provider about having a birth doula at their birth. They don't need to get their care providers permission, after all the family is paying for care providers' services, but it is a courtesy to let them know who to expect. Families can also request that the doula attend a prenatal visit so that the care provider and doula can meet, this also gives the provider an opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification.
LD: When should expectant parents begin working with a doula?
JRM: Families will typically contact a doula during their third trimester. But if the family wants to hire a popular doula, or if the family is going to birth the baby during a busy time of the year (like the winter holidays when many doulas take fewer clients) or if there are few doulas in your area it is best to contract with the doula early on to be sure you are on her calendar.
LD: How do parents go about choosing a doula?
JRM: Parents who are considering hiring a doula should be prepared to interview potential doulas and ask for references. Parents can find a list of local doulas by going to the sites of organizations that train and certify doulas. For example, DONA International has a "doula locator" link that list certified birth and postpartum doulas by city and state. If a doula cannot be found in their area I would encourage them to call the DONA International home office, as there maybe a member in their area who is working on certification. Only certified doulas who are members of DONA International are listed on the web site. DONA International has a good list of questions to ask a potential doula. You can find this list at www.dona.org/mothers/how_to_hire_a_doula.php
LD: What type of training do doulas receive?
JRM: Follow this link for an overview of DONA Internationals birth and postpartum doula certification process www.dona.org/develop/birth_cert.php, www.dona.org/develop/postpartum_cert.php DONA Internationals programs are the gold standard among certification programs.
LD: Is there any other information you think is important for people to know about doulas and their work?
JRM: A family who is considering hiring a doula, but cannot afford one, should not be deterred from having a doula at their birth or postpartum. Many doulas in training are more than willing to offer their services for little or no charge. A family in this situation should contact the DONA International State or Provicial Representative in their state, or if there is not one they need to contact the Regional Director. DONA International believes that every family deserves a doula, regardless of their circumstances. We will do our best to make sure this happens.