So first off it’s pronounced doo·luh. What does that mean? Here’s the official version:
A trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.
But let’s not stop there, there’s even different types of doula’s!
This is the traditional doula role and the one that most associate with the name. The birth doula usually meets with a mother or couple several times before labour to become familiar with one another and learn about the mother’s preferences and goals for her birth. She is on call for the birth and joins the mother during labour at the mother’s request. Some birth doulas work through a hospital system, and in this case the mother may not meet her doula until she is in labour. Either way, the doula stays with the mother and provides constant encouragement and support until the baby has been born and everyone is comfortable and resting. A doula will usually stay in close contact in the days after the birth to check up on everyone, and go to at least one home visit in the week or two after birth.
A postpartum doula provides support and help to the mother and family in the first few weeks after a new baby’s birth. Sometimes, a labour and postpartum doula may be the same woman, or these may be two different people. A postpartum doula is on call as the baby’s arrival gets closer, so that she is ready to step in and help as soon as the baby is born. Her role may include breastfeeding support, emotional support, or physical support such as meal preparation, laundry, child care for older children, running errands or housekeeping.
An antepartum doula serves a mother who is experiencing a high-risk or difficult pregnancy. She provides emotional and physical support with the goal of lowering levels of stress and anxiety, and helping the mother be as comfortable as possible during her pregnancy. The doula also assists with preparing the mother for her birth experience and can provide valuable information when important decisions or issues arise. Some antepartum doulas may also transition to serve as a birth doula when labour begins.
A sibling doula is on call as labor approaches to provide child care to the new baby’s older sibling(s). However, in addition to her skills in child care, the sibling doula is usually also an experienced childbirth professional and helps the child understand labor and birth in an age-appropriate manner, and prepares them for baby’s arrival. A sibling doula will usually have several meetings with the mother and her child(ren) prior to labor so that they can become familiar and comfortable with each other and to discuss the plans for labor and birth. The doula is then on call to come at any time of day or night and stays with older siblings until several hours after birth. She handles all the necessary transportation, feeding and care while parents are busy with labor and birth. She may also be available to bring older children to the hospital, if the parents desire.
A bereavement doula provides support to mothers who have experienced or anticipate a loss, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, or a terminal diagnosis during pregnancy. A bereavement doula provides encouragement and physical, emotional and informational support as a mentor and friend through the journey of loss. This support may be provided during pregnancy, birth, and after the loss.
If you haven’t thought about utilizing the services of a doula now is the perfect time to do so, who wouldn’t want their own personal cheerleader, friends, counsellor all rolled into one ready to take your call anytime?