I think it is safe to say we have all been asked, “What do you do?” My answer is almost always met with confusion. Many have never even heard of the word doula or they think it is synonymous with a midwife. Add in the “postpartum” and even more confusion is added to the mix.
The word doula comes from the Greek word for female servant. Today, however, the word doula is associated with a woman who has professional training and experience providing non-medical support to pregnant, laboring, and postpartum women. Simply put, a doula is an extra set of hands with loads of education and experience related to pregnancy, childbirth, infant feeding, and newborn care.
A birth or labor doula meets with you prenatally and helps you think about and prepare for labor. During labor she provides practical, physical, and emotional support. She provides encouragement, assists in facilitating a loving environment for laboring, and provides physical and emotional comfort measures. She does not dictate how you should labor, she is not only for natural births, and she does not fight with your healthcare providers. She provides the necessary encouragement and education so you and your partner can make the best decisions for yourselves. A labor doula comes when you call, and stays with you until at least one to two hours post-delivery to help facilitate bonding and breastfeeding.
A postpartum doula provides in-home support as you adjust to life with a new baby. She does not take over care for baby, rather she cares for mom and the family as whole while facilitating bonding. A doula will provide infant care if the parents need rest, but she is not there to take over or interfere with bonding. She provides evidenced based information about infant care and infant feeding so you can make informed decisions about what works best for your family. A postpartum doula is trained in normal breastfeeding initiation and provides support and education as you and baby develop a nursing relationship.
In recent years doulas have become more popular and hopefully soon I will not be met with, “huh?” when I say I am a doula, or a postpartum doula. I hope to be met with, “Ohh awesome, we loved our doula!” because ALL moms deserve a doula!