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What is a Postpartum Doula?

Doula is a Greek word literally meaning “woman’s servant.”

A postpartum doula offers in-home education, assistance, reassurance, and emotional support to a new mother and her family. Postpartum doulas are not baby nurses, instead, they focus on the needs of the mother, as well as her family.  Postpartum doulas can help around the house, support the new mother so she can take care of herself (sleep/eat/shower), make suggestions to improve breastfeeding, sleep, or family transition. They can help parents learn “parenting skills” such as baby-wearing, soothing a newborn, balancing the needs of a new baby with the rest of life, etc. Doulas can also make referrals to other professionals/resources as needed.

Postpartum doulas are trained in breast and bottle feeding, newborn characteristics and care, physical and emotional care of the postpartum mother, postpartum mood disorders, and assisting the family through this transitional period. Doulas are required to stay up to date on recent research and studies through continuing education and training.

How does a doula really make a difference?

Studies have shown having a postpartum doula results in better breastfeeding success, improved mother/baby bonding and fewer postpartum mood disorders. Mothers and fathers report greater satisfaction with their postpartum experience, and feel more confident in their parenting skills and choices.

What exactly does a doula do to provide support?

A doula’s role is to provide physical, emotional, and informational support to women and their partners during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.  Doulas specialize in non-medical skills and do not perform clinical tasks. Doulas do not diagnose medical conditions, nor offer medical advice. Most importantly, doulas do not make decisions for their clients; they do not project their own values and goals onto the mother or family. Postpartum doulas can offer education and information on breastfeeding, newborn care, self care, and parenting. A doula’s job is to empower the family to feel confident in their ability to parent their own baby.

How do I choose a doula?

It is recommended to talk with several potential doulas by phone first, and assess if their philosophy matches your own.

Potential questions might be…

  • What do you think is the most important part of your job?
  • What are the main skills or abilities you offer?
  • How do you include my partner or family?
  • Why did you become a doula?

Practical questions might be…

  • What is your availability around my due date?
  • What is your background and training?
  • What are your fees?
  • Whom may I call as a reference?

I recommend meeting the doula in person to make sure you feel completely comfortable in her presence. This  interview will be the time for you to discuss the details of your goals, preferences, and concerns. Your doula should be someone you feel completely comfortable with, someone who makes you and your partner feel relaxed and safe.

How does a doula really make a difference?
Results from different studies have all suggested that having a doula reduces the overall cesarean rate by 50%, Pitocin use by 40% and requests for epidurals by 60%. The use of a doula also showed a major reduction in the length of labor due to fewer stress hormones being produced in the laboring woman’s body.

The Doula Book © 2002; Klaus, Marshall, Klaus and Kennell.