Pregnant women all over the United States are steadily realizing the benefits of utilizing the services of doulas. Modern doulas typically offer pregnancy support, birth coaching, and postpartum care. They also offer support to the partner of the pregnant woman. Doulas are an ancient tradition in my cultures. The word “doula” originates from the Greek word for the most important female servant within a Greek household. Throughout history, this woman was charged with assisting the lady of the home through the process of childbearing.
Much of the doula’s work is of an emotional nature. She believes in a woman’s ability to know her own body, her labor and her baby. She helps women trust in this knowledge. A doula also strives to empower her clients with her knowledge of the birth process and is an advocate for the pregnant woman. A doule often facilitates communication with the medical staff or midwife. Qualified doula’s are knowledgeable about labor coping and management skills. Many strive to maintain a calm atmosphere with lighting and music during the labor and delivery process. Massage is also a technique that many doula’s use to offer comfort.
Many doulas are also offer postpartum support. They often offer referrals to lactation consultants, pediatricians, counselors, and support groups. Postpartum doulas assist with the adjustment that a new child brings to families. Meal preparation, light household tasks, companionship, and knowledge in the areas of feeding, infant development, and parent-infant bonding are the areas that doulas may address.
DONA, Doulas of North America, is a doula group with an international membership of over 5,000 birth and postpartum doulas. This organization offers certification for birth doula certification and postpartum certification. The organization’s website, http://www.dona.org, also offers a state-by-state directory of certified doulas.
Evidence-based research encompassing eleven studies cited at the website of DONA outlines the many benefits of partnering with a doula. Birth outcomes include shorter labor periods and fewer complications, reduced cesarean rates, decreased use of oxytocin to hasten the labor process, and women tend to request less pain medications and epidurals. The studies indicate that the use of a doula results in less postpartum depression and increased satisfaction with the birthing experience. Babies tend to have shorter hospital stays and are less likely to be admitted to special care nurseries. Examination of implementing the use of doulas also indicates that the cost of obstetrical care is reduced.
Clients often hire doulas privately. Hospital employees ma be certified as doulas. Volunteer doulas sometimes commit their expertise as volunteers in community or hospital programs.
Fees that can be expected for doula support services vary widely. Insurance applicability, varying rates for weekdays, weekends, and overnight service, and mileage considerations can affect the cost of hiring a doula. Many doulas are willing to work on a sliding scale for low-income families. Insurance companies don’t normally cover the expenditure of a doula, but DONA is addressing this issue. They have formed a taskforce that is working to change this standard.