There are three basic types of services a doula offers—prenatal, birth, and postpartum assistance. A pregnant woman can hire a doula to provide nonmedical aid in one, two, or all three of these phases of pregnancy. The word “doula,” which comes from Greek, means “female servant.”
What Is a Prenatal Doula?
A prenatal doula supports a woman during her pregnancy. This doula provides emotional support to a pregnant woman and often helps her create a birth plan. The birth plan outlines how the woman would like to give birth, which could specify the place where she wants to deliver (in a hospital, at a birth center, at home) and what pain relief measures she would like to use (focused breathing exercises, visualization, epidural).
What Is a Labor Doula or Birth Doula?
“Labor doula” and “birth doula” are both terms for doulas who provide continuous psychological and physical support to a woman during labor and delivery. It is important to understand that doulas are not midwives. Doulas do not provide medical care. However, they are knowledgeable about all aspects of childbirth.
Many women hire a labor doula when they want to give birth naturally, without pain medication or an epidural. A labor doula provides emotional reassurance to a woman throughout childbirth and can help relieve her physical discomfort through the use of massage, suggestions for positioning, and breathing coaching.
What Is a Postpartum Doula?
After the birth of her baby, a woman may employ the services of a postpartum doula. These doulas are especially helpful for new parents. A postpartum doula helps a couple ease into parenthood by providing practical support. The doula can give tips on breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and other aspects of infant care as well as assist around the home with cleaning, laundry, and cooking. A postpartum doula can also relieve pressure on a new mom and dad by performing duties outside the home like grocery shopping.
The cost of a doula’s services varies based on geographic region, a doula’s education and experiences, and the services a doula provides. Typically a family can expect to pay between $300 and $1,000, with the average cost being around $500.
How to Find a Doula
One of the best ways to find a doula is to get a recommendation from a friend or family member. A doctor or hospital can also give doula referrals.
A woman should interview a doula prior to hiring him or her. Doulas are not required to be certified, but many are. Doula education, training, and certification are offered through various organizations. A couple should also be sure to check a doula’s references.
Doula Assistance During Pregnancy, Labor, and After Birth of Baby
The help provided by a doula during a woman’s pregnancy, labor and delivery, and during the postpartum period can be invaluable. Numerous studies show that a doula helps reduce a woman’s stress, anxiety, and uncertainty at all stages of pregnancy. Statistics show a significant reduction in the need for labor induction as well as pain intervention and cesarean sections during childbirth for women who use doulas. Doulas help many families have positive prenatal, birth, and postpartum experiences.