The word doula comes from the ancient Greek language meaning "female servant," but it has come to mean a labour support person - someone knowledgeable about birth who will support the labouring woman and her partner before, during, and after birth. Anyone can call themselves a doula and often the woman's sister or friend will assume the role, but professional doulas are trained and some are certified by organizing bodies worldwide. Birth doulas provide information to the expecting woman during her pregnancy, emotional and physical support during her labour, and immediately after the birth. Postpartum doulas work with families in the 4th trimester (the first three months after baby is born) to help encourage, support, and provide information.
Now that we've got that out of the way, what do doulas actually do? Do you need a doula for your birth? What about after baby is born?
Let's talk about birth first. Birth doulas provide continuous support which has been shown to have many benefits including improved maternal and fetal health. Just how does a doula support a labouring woman? It depends on the woman! Some women need a gentle touch and encouraging words while some need to be left alone; some women like knowing their doula is there for ideas and suggestions; and some need a lot of physical support. Whatever you need, your doula is there for you.
Doulas are really handy when it comes to keeping mom comfortable, whether it's applying a cool cloth to the forehead, making sure the room is warm/cool enough, dimming the lights, suggesting different labour positions, or keeping mom hydrated and fed. But there are also things that are taught in the trainings - providing pressure on the back for pain relief, the use of a rebozo - a long, scarf-like piece of material - the use of a TENS machine, massage techniques and something called the double hip squeeze. These are only some of the comfort measures and tools we bring to each and every labour.
A doula can help you feel confident and empowered. A doula can hold your space and hold your hand. A doula can let your partner take a break. A doula can make a world of difference.
As for postpartum doulas, we joke that they try and work themselves out of a job. Postpartum doulas are there to answer any question relating to your new baby or your postpartum body. They are often trained to help with breastfeeding and sometimes baby wearing, cloth diapering, and can always find great resources in the community for anything challenging that comes up. They work with you to help you find your new normal, to find your rhythm, and to blossom into your new family unit.
Want to know more? Want to meet some Ottawa doulas in person? You're in luck. There is a FREE information session Tuesday, July 15th at 7pm at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre. You can ask all your questions and maybe find a doula you like.
Hope to see you there!
Kamerine is mom to Little J and Little K. She documents her life with two toddlers, a husband and a cat at The Life of K. Kamerine is also a birth doula, and you can find out more about her services at Tiny Feet Doula Services.