What is a Doula?

“We can always control how we care for a woman.” Penny Simkin

Whether a sister, mother, friend, the local midwife or the nearest neighbor, women have always cared for other women during the challenging hours of labor and birth. The most recent model of this care involves doulas. The rise in doula-assisted births has emerged as the medical/technical model of birth has become the norm.

What is a doula and what do we do?

doula1_03A doula is a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support before, during and after childbirth. We support women in every birthing situation—hospital, birth center and home. We help the woman and support team prenatally to explore her birthing options. We then base our support during the hours of labor and birth on what is most important to her. We strive to help everyone at the birth feel helpful and calm while they support the mother.

Why is the doula role important and unique?

doula3_03We care for the woman in a way that helps her feel safe, secure and confident as she faces the journey from pregnancy to motherhood. A doula represents both the knowledge of evidence-based best practices and appreciation for the traditional wisdom of birth. We fill the only role in the birth team that offers true continuous care—from the time the mother calls for us until the baby is safely snuggled in her arms. We are there for the mother and her partner no matter what the length of the birth, or whether the birth includes some or no interventions. We respect and understand birth as a normal process in a healthy woman’s life. We do not replace the partner or extended family, but we guide and help them to be supportive and helpful during the labor and birth.

How to find the right doula

dona_logo_06The doula who helps you face and embrace what is important to you might be the right one for you. If you can honestly tell her your hopes and fears, and share your dreams for what “good care” might mean to you—this sense of connection and trust will lead you to find the right doula. It is important that you can understand and appreciate the doula’s communication style and are calmed by her physical presence. It’s best to interview doulas in person. DONA offers sample interview suggestions on its website.

Experience and Cost

doula2_06Several organizations train and certify doulas, including, but not limited to: DONA International, ICEA and ALACE. We expect parents to screen Collective doulas according to what is important to your family. Some doulas opt not to be certified and you are free to ask them why when you interview them. We all set our own fees, which reflects our experience level and additional training. The range of fees is wide; a sliding scale may be used. New doulas looking for experience will often work for a reduced rate, but there are always expenses associated with attending a birth. We encourage a small stipend to help newer doulas getting started in their practice.

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