What is a doula and why do we matter?

What is a doula and why do we matter?

What is a doula?

"I am a doula. Umm, which is a birth coach. ummm, but I do more than coach a woman on breathing techniques during labor"

"No, I am not a midwife-in-training. No, I am not a midwives' assistant"

"I am also an advocate, and ensure that the birthing person's needs are met during and after labor"

"I know that the woman's partner and family can also provide support. But what doulas provide is different. We are trained to provide a specific type of support"

These are all typical responses I offer when asked "what is a doula"? Sometimes, the response rolls smoothly off of my tongue and, on other days, I find myself trying to convince the listener that a doula's role in birth matters. So what is a doula? Upon googling the word, the first response you'll see is:

...a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born.

Though a snapshot of what a doula is, this definition does not capture the full essence of what it is a doula truly offers for an expectant person and their family.

Doulas are birth workers, we provide an array of services during pregnancy, labor, and after the baby is born. The main services we provide include educational materials on the benefits of certain practices during labor (such as movement, breathing and aromatherapy). We also help the family prepare for the moment right after birth, once the baby arrives. We offer information about delaying the clamping of the umbilical chord, skin-to-skin contact between baby and mother, and the amazing benefits of breastfeeding during the first moments of birth. 

Doulas are advocates. We provide the family with information that will enhance the birthing person's experiences. Personally, I offer the person information on things such as the adverse effects of chemically inducing labor with drugs such as pitocin. I also provide statistics on the correlation between a woman's inability to move while in labor and an increased chance of c-section.

Overall, doulas are magic makers. Our presence can drastically alter the birthing person's experiences. I believe that doulas play the part of the proverbial village that many of our grandmothers speak about, or that we read about in texts pertaining to the Divine Feminine. We offer a type of feminine energy that, I would attest to personally, creates a sense of peace and encouragement for the birthing mother. Our role during birth is to make sure that the person knows that the sensations she is experiencing, which can often be intense and sometimes frightening, are all natural parts of the process of birthing new life on earth.

Being a doula is a labor of love for me. Being present for the birth of a new human being is priceless. I would encourage all people who are either pregnant, thinking of getting pregnant, or know someone who is pregnant, to consider getting a doula for their birth. I particularly encourage those who plan to birth in hospitals to hire a doula. It can be a bit harder for a woman to get her needs met while laboring in a hospital if she does not have a doula, or another objective advocate, working on her behalf.

It is everyone's human right to birth and raise their children under humane conditions. A cooperative staff of people working on behalf of the woman and child are essential for this to occur.