Having a doula

Women have been helping women to birth for as long as we know. Having a doula – to hold your hand, to guide, to encourage, to advocate – can make a real difference. Founder & Midwife of GraceFull Birthing, Elizabeth Bachner, discusses the role and benefits of a doula.

Melissa Jean Photography

What is a doula?

Once upon a time when we lived tribally, there was no such thing as a job title of “doula”; but rather, we would support each other when labor began. Words of encouragement were ushered in, prayers for ease and joy were held, all the while, trust in the process itself emanated throughout the room.

The term “doula”, from ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves”, was first used in a 1969 anthropological study to describe how females of the same species attended their friends and sisters in childbirth. The modern day job of both birthing and postpartum doulas began in America and has since spread internationally as we come back to our ancient knowing in this millennial age.

There is no standardized training for a doulas. Generally speaking, most doulas have attended training that teaches the basics of anatomy and physiology, support techniques during un-medicated and medicated births, how western medicines work, Evidence Based Care policies, breastfeeding tips and tricks and newborn care. Doulas offer emotional support and physical comfort and are not medically licensed professionals, therefore they cannot make medical diagnoses, give medical advice or treat medical conditions.

Choosing a doula

When a family chooses a medical professional who practices Evidence Based Care, the need for advocacy is diminished. Modern doulas are loving, knowledgeable and fierce. They work as part of a team with the family’s chosen medical care provider, each of whom respects their own and the other’s area of expertise. Each party has one intention in mind: a smooth collaboration in support of a stellar experience for the family.

A doula’s goal is to help the new family become self-sufficient and confident. As a result, doulas will provide a wealth of information and have a plethora of resources for referrals in holistic and western medicines, lactation, and/or therapeutic support at their fingertips.

When choosing a doula, the interview process is a time of discovery. You will learn about your core family values and this will empower you to make a choice about who will be invited to share in these sacred moments. Some families want a doula with a nationally recognized certification while others care less about licensing and want years of hands-on experience. One mother-to-be might need someone who specializes in massage while another’s anxiety is so high she will need someone who specializes in PTSD training.

After giving birth the needs are as unique to a family as their child is.  Some may need round-the-clock support so the mother can be present for her older children while new moms may want an expert to teach them about diaper changing and bathing techniques.

Unfortunately, asking for support has become a foreign concept or a sign of weakness to today’s woman. We are expected to all be super moms. However, the fact is that asking for help is a sign of strength, which is why hiring a doula might be the first step in learning about how to create the community that you need to become the peaceful mother of a thriving family.

For more information on certified doulas visit: www.dona.org or www.cappa.net

Photo by @melissajeanbabies