"Doula" is a word of Greek origin that translates as "woman who serves". In contemporary times, a doula is a birth professional who provides physical, emotional, spiritual, and practical support for mothers and their families during the pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum periods.
During pregnancy, a doula may provide childbirth education, resources, and give guidance on emotional and practical matters. Choosing and getting to know your doula earlier in pregnancy allows for a deeper connection which informs her ability to be as present for you and your family as possible. In labor, a doula may provide suggestions for comfort measures, encouragement, and support techniques. After the birth, doulas may work with a new mother and her family on breastfeeding, nutrition, healing techniques, sibling care, cooking and meal prep, light house cleaning, and informational support. A doula may perform any or all of these services depending on your needs and her areas of experience and knowledge.
Doulas do not push their own agendas. A doula seeks to honor your desires for your preferred experience. It is your journey. A doula follows your lead and works for YOU, not a hospital, birth center, or any other person/institution.
Studies have shown that the presence of doulas as birth companions have lowered the number of cesarean sections by 50%, lowered length of labor by 25%, lowered synthetic oxytocin use by 40%, lowered the amount of pain medications by 30%, lowered the number of epidurals by 60%, and lowered the use of forceps or vacuums by 30%.
In addition, doulas support birth partners by freeing them to give their own unique, intimate attention to the laboring woman. With the assistance of a doula, mothers, partners and other birth attendants can experience birth more fully.