March 22-28 celebrates World Doula Week. Let’s learn more about what a doula is and how they can help you during your labor and delivery.
What is a Doula?
A doula is a person who offers emotional and physical support during your labor, delivery and immediate postpartum period. Doulas work in a variety of birth settings: home, birth center or hospital. Often doulas meet with families before the labor for one or more prenatal meetings. This helps the doula get to know the family and help them to prepare for the impending labor. During labor, the doula will either meet the family at home or at your chosen birth location. Your doula will provide comfort measures, support and advocacy during the entire labor. Once the baby is born, your doula will help you transition to the postpartum setting and facilitate breastfeeding (if you chose to nurse).
Benefits of a Doula
Doulas have been shown to:
- Reduce the use of medical interventions such as pitocin, vacuum or forceps and cesarean section
- Provide comfort for the mother and reduce the need for pain medication
- Facilitate shorter, more productive labors
During your labor, your doula will use comfort measures like massage, essential oils, warm compresses and positioning to help you through each contraction and keep your labor progressing. Your doula will also be a sounding board in the conversation about the benefits/risks of any interventions that arise throughout the labor. One thing your doula will not do is replace your clinician/care provider. They are there solely for your emotional and physical well-being. A doula can also help the partner focus fully on the mother during the labor. This support helps transition the family unit and promotes bonding during and after labor.
Where to find a doula in the North Virginia area?
Birth Options Alliance: Local organization that highlights birth services in the DC Metro area
DC Doula Match: A website about local doulas with fees, contact information and availability.
“Meet the Doula” Events: Many local groups host “Meet the Doula” events to offer a chance to meet local doulas in a low pressure environment.