About doulas

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What is a birth doula?

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

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What is a postpartum doula?

-Offers education, companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum fourth trimester

-Assists with newborn care, family adjustment, meal preparation and light household tidying

-Offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary

Research evidence shows that the quality services of a postpartum doula can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to a family, improve parental satisfaction and reduce the risk of mood disorders.

Benefits to Having a Doula

Recent studies demonstrate that the presence of a Doula may result in:

  • 50% decrease in caesarian deliveries
  • 25% decrease in length of labor
  • 40% decrease in use of oxytocin/pitocin
  • 60% decrease in use of Epidural
  • 30% decrease in use of pain medications (narcotics)
  • 30% decrease in use of forceps

In addition, long term benefits to doula use include:

  • Decreased anxiety and incidence of postpartum depression
  • More successful breastfeeding
  • Higher satisfaction with her birth experience
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Higher regard for their babies and their ability to care for them

References for this page

  1. Barron SP, Lane HW, Hannan TE, Struempler B, Williams J.C. Factors influencing duration of breast feeding among low-income women. J Am Diet Assoc 1998 Dec 88:12 1557-61.
  2. Campero L, Garcia C, Diaz C, Ortiz O, Reynoso S, Langer A. “Alone, I wouldn’t have known what to do”: a qualitative study on social support during labor and delivery in Mexico. Soc Sci Med1998 Aug 47:3 395-703.
  3. Gordon NP, Walton D, McAdam E, Derman J, Gallitero G, Garrett L. Effects of providing hospital-based doulas in health maintenance organization hospitals. Obstet Gynecol 1999 Mar 92:3 422-6.
  4. Klaus KH, Kennell JH. The doula: an essential ingredient of childbirth rediscovered. Acta Paediatr 1997 Oct 86:10 1034-6.
  5. Keenan P. Benefits of massage therapy and use of a doula during labor and childbirth. Altern Ther Health Med 2000 Jan 6:66-74.
  6. Langer A, Campero L, Garcia C, Reynoso S. Effects of psychosocial support during labor and childbirth on breast feeding, medical interventions, and mothers’ well being in a Mexican public hospital: a randomized clinical trial. Br J Obstet Gynecol 1998 Oct 105:10 1056-63.
  7. Madi, Banyana Cecilia; Sandall, Jane; Bennett, Ruth; MacLeod, Christina, “Effects of Female Relative Support in Labor: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 54(10):627-628, October 1999.
  8. Manning-Orenstein G. A birth intervention: the therapeutic effects of Doula support versus Lamaze preparation on first-time mothers’ working models of care giving. Altern Ther Health Med 1998-Jul 4:4 73-81.
  9. M.H. Klaus, J.H. Kennell, “The doula: an essential ingredient of childbirth rediscovered.” Acta Paediatr. 1997 Oct;86(10):1034-6.
  10. Nolan, M. Supporting women in labor: the doula’s role. Mod Midwife 1995 Mar 5:3 12-5.
  11. P. Keenan, “Benefits of massage therapy and use of a doula during labor and childbirth.” Altern Ther Health Med. 2000 Jan;6(1):66-74
  12. Raphael D. Support and variation, the needs of the breastfeeding woman. Acta Paediatr Jpn 1989 Aug 31:4 369-72.
  13. Scott KD, Klaus PH, Klaus MH. The obstetrical and postpartum benefits of continuous support during childbirth. J Women’s Health Gend Based Med 1999 Dec 8:1257-64.