By Ifetayo White
Perhaps this is a strange question, if you know what a doula is. But in my recent informal survey in Beaufort County, I found out that most people have never heard this word nor have any idea what they would with a doula.
Doula is an ancient Greek word meaning “a woman of service.” In today’s world, a doula is a woman (usually) who is trained to provide various forms of non-medical and non-midwifery physical and emotional support during pregnancy, during childbirth and/or during the postpartum period.
As doctors, nurses, and midwives are primarily responsible for the clinical health and well-being of the mother and baby, a trained doula can provide both physical and emotional support for both women and their partners. By consistently gathering information during pregnancy, labor and even birthing, she is able to offer a highly individualized support plan. The doula provides continuous support during labor and birth at a hospital, birthing center or home birth until a short time after the baby has arrived. She offers support in the form of touch and encouragement, and coaching on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement, focus. The doula helps ensure that these non-medical needs are met while enhancing communication and understanding between the woman or couple and the primary care staff. It has been my experience that many doctors, midwives and nurses appreciate the extra attention given to the laboring moms and the greater satisfaction expressed by women who were assisted by a doula.
A postpartum doula typically begins providing care in the home after the birth, which might include cooking for the mother, breastfeeding support, newborn care assistance, errands, light housekeeping, etc. In some cases, doula care can last several months or even to a year postpartum — especially in cases when mothers are suffering from postpartum depression, children with special needs require longer care, or there are multiple infants. The postpartum doula can also support, reinforce and enhance the experiences of second, third or even fourth time parents.
So the answer to the question, “Do you doula?” should be YES!!! Use her to give you and your family in-depth and compassionate support during any phase of your childbirth experience.
A favorite quote in the birthing community is from Dr. John Kennell who conceived of the notion of doulas in the 1960’s. He said, “If a doula were a drug, it would be malpractice not to use it.”
Ifetayo White is a Certified Doula (toLabor/ALACE), Reiki Master Teacher and practitioner, Master Bodyworker and teacher of a number of body-centered and wellness support tools, in addition to being a well-life coach. She is the Founder of CHOICES Birthing and Wellness Support (www.choicesbirthing.com) and The Lowcountry School of Reiki and Energy Healing Wisdom. Contact her at 843-271-1923, firstname.lastname@example.org.