What is a doula? How many types of Doulas are there? I get asked this question a lot. What a doula is, and what role she or he plays can be difficult to describe to someone who is unfamiliar with the word, doula. It can become increasingly more difficult to describe what a doula does, because there are various types of doulas. Here’s a great breakdown of what a doula is, and the various types of doulas that exist.
Wikipedia’s definition is: A doula (/ˈduːlə/), also known as a birth companion and post-birth supporter, is a nonmedical person who assists a person before, during, and/or after childbirth, as well as her spouse and/or family, by providing physical assistance and emotional support. The provision of continuous support during labour is associated with improved maternal and fetal health and a variety of other benefits, including lower risk of induction and interventions and less need for pain relief. These benefits are particularly significant when continuous support is provided by someone who is not there as family/friend or as medical staff (i.e. a doula). Additionally, a doula is sometimes hired to work with families beyond the postpartum stages, providing continued physical and emotional support, for as long as needed (sometimes, this support can be ongoing for several years).
Derived from a Greek word that means “woman who serves,” the term was first used in 1969.
Still unsure what a doula is?
Often people will assume that your role is more clinical or similar to a midwife, but while doulas’ roles are broad and wide, they are not clinical. That being said, most doulas have a thorough knowledge of medical terminology and the birth process. Doulas are there to guide you, coach you, and anchor you. They are your rock in this wild ocean. Doulas help educate moms and partners about the many choices and interventions you face while giving birth in the hospital.They provide information about local care providers, midwives, hospitals, and many other resources. Doulas help you to prepare and get ready for one of the most important days of your life; they are a wealth of knowledge, and help train you for your birth.
Still unsure why you want one?
A doula builds confidence in new parents and is often the one person who will always answer your calls or emails quickly when you have a question or just need some reassurance or advice. Birth doulas sleep with their phones while on call and care deeply about their commitment in the continuity of care provided to you. Birth doulas support you throughout your entire labor and after. They will offer comfort measures, optimal positioning, visualization techniques such as: Gentle Birth or Hypnobirthing, essential oils therapy, massage, rebozo; they often carry a “birth bag” with special items to help you navigate labor. Doulas keep the labor room calm and steady with their presence and are the one person who is completely focussed on you and your emotional and physical wellbeing. No two doulas are exactly alike! They all have different personalities, experience levels, techniques, skills, and talents. Be sure to interview more than just one doula to ensure a great match for you. Having a competent and cohesive birth team can make all the difference.
Think of a doula as mother’s best friend. A doula’s role is to support mama during pregnancy and labor (midwives support baby). Postpartum doulas have a dual role caring for mama and baby as well as the household.
Did you know that there are many different types of doulas?
Birth doulas: Birth doulas support women, and their partners, through prenatal education, continual birth support, and postpartum meetings to discuss the birth and address any remaining family needs.
Postpartum doulas: Postpartum doulas do whatever a mother needs to best enjoy and care for her new baby. A large part of their role is education. They share information about baby care with parents, as well as teach siblings and partners to “mother the mother.” Some postpartum doulas specialize in night doula work, nutrition, sleep consultations, lactation, belly binding and body work.
Fertility doulas: Fertility Doulas support service is intended to help improve the outcome of your particular family building pursuit. They are specifically oriented to people pursuing a child through fertility treatments or adoption.
Sibling doulas: Often a big stress for new parents is creating a plan for childcare once you go into labor with your new baby. A sibling doula service allows you and your partner to fully participate in the new baby’s labor and birth while the sibling doula watches after your other offspring, making it possible for your older child(ren) to be a part of this incredible experience. Many homebirth families like this option. A Sibling doula is more than just a baby sitter, she has knowledge and understanding of birth and laboring family and existing child (children’s) needs.
Grief and loss doulas: G&L doulas will support you in a pregnancy loss so you do not have to go through this heart wrenching experience alone. Grief doulas will also support you by attending your 6 week postpartum visit, so you don’t have to face it alone. They will provide you with resources, comfort and support.
Full spectrum doulas: Full spectrum doulas provide care to people across the full spectrum of pregnancy experiences, including abortion, adoption, surrogacy, miscarriage and stillbirth.
End of life doulas: Offer doula services to the dying. They provide emotional support and care for the dying, and accompany those in the end stages of life.
Teen doulas: Teen doulas are for pregnant teens. Having doula support helps teens to grow and develop into confident and educated parents. Teen doulas are often act as mentors for healthy parenting, and forming meaningful bonds. Doulas help young families adjust and create a plan to reach their goals as new parents.
Whichever type of doula you decide to hire, you will NOT be sorry! I believe a doula, no matter what type of support she/he may offer, is THE most valuable tool available to new and expecting parents.
The World Health Organization agrees!
“ Compared with usual care, the provision of continuous support to women during labour increases the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal birth, reduces the duration of labour and use of analgesia and lowers the incidence of caesarean section and instrumental delivery. Moreover, fewer babies are born with a low 5-minute Apgar score and mothers express more satisfaction with the birth experience.”
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Erica Falk is the CEO and founder of Doula Spot.com. She had the idea while vacationing with her own family in Hawaii while trying to serve clients remotely. In 2013 she gave “birth” to Doula Spot and formed a team of experts and launched the website less than a year later.
Certified as a Massage Therapist in 1990 at Heartwood Institute in Garberville, CA. She began her practice in the holistic field as a Massage Therapist in the Bay Area. In 1999 she received certification from World School of Massage and Advanced Healing Arts in Swedish, Deep Tissue and Vibrational modalities.
Early 2000’s she focused on certifications which include: doula training at Natural Resources in San Francisco, prenatal massage at The Body Therapy Center in Palo Alto and Midwifery Assistant Workshop at The Farm in Tennessee, with instruction from the renowned midwife and birth activist Ina May Gaskin.At the Farm the focus was on breastfeeding and bonding, cultural differences in childbirth, position, station and engagement of baby, anatomy and physiology of female reproduction, blood pressure, oxygen set-up and use and neonatal resuscitation. During her stay at The Farm, she met 14 other wonderful aspiring midwives, all who are making a difference in the world of birth.
Her passion grew in April 2009, after she began working as a volunteer in the Doula Program at San Francisco General Hospital. Through this experience she has been fortunate to be part of many births. Over the years she has dealt with many issues that present challenges in the birth process, such as teen pregnancy, poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, drug and sexual abuse, and adoption support. This has been invaluable learning for her, as well as one of the most fulfilling experiences in her life.
Erica’s philosophy is “It is my desire to nurture, respect and protect your right to a memorable and beautiful birth experience”.
Jennifer “Jake” McKenna Ibarra studied Early Childhood Education at San Francisco City College, is a certified birth and bereavement doula through SBD University, certified in perinatal mood disorders by Postpartum Support International and is also a PSI member. In the past Jake has co-facilitated local H.A.N.D. meetings. She is a 4th generation San Francisco Native and mother to six including her preterm twin angels.
Jake combines her personal experience with extensive birth and bereavement training making her an invaluable asset to the Doula Spot.com team.