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What is A Doula?

Rachel O'Reilly

Mothering the Mother during the birth of her baby.
— Cindy Whitman-Bradley

By Aaryn Leineke

The word “Doula” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves.” It 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.

Every woman can benefit from having a doula. Studies have shown that when a doula is present at a birth labors are shorter, with fewer complications, babies have an easier time connecting with the mother and frequently latch on immediately after birth. A birth doula never leaves the mother’s side, is trained to emotionally "be there" during the most intimate times of birth, and assists the partner and guides them on ways to best support their laboring partner.  A birth doula is an advocate, one that can help communicate one’s desires and to help a laboring mother make decisions based off of all circumstances that may come along.

Women have historically attended and supported other women during labor and birth. It is only recently that modern obstetric care frequently subjects women to institutional routines which don’t include constant supportive emotional care during labor. In a way, continuous support during childbirth has become obsolete. The purpose of a doula is to provide continuous physical and emotional support and to provide comfort measures such as massage, acupressure and a warm embrace. Doulas are educated to recommend position changes when a labor is either stagnant or when a mother is having a difficult time coping with pain. The continuous support from another trained woman may enhance physiologic labor processes, as well as women’s feelings of control and competence, thus reducing the need for obstetric intervention. There are studies that women who received continuous labor support were less likely to use pain medication and were more likely to give birth "spontaneously" (give birth with neither caesarean,  vacuum or forceps).

A postpartum doula is a woman who provides support to the family after the baby is born, too. She may serve as a lactation consultant, help give the mother and partner a break to shower, eat, and rest. They may help out around the house by cleaning up, servicing laundry and preparing meals. A postpartum doula makes sure to assist in anyway possible to facilitate the mama stays in bed and rests while her body recovers from birth. They may also do night shifts to help out with the baby’s feeding soothing while mother and father get a full night’s sleep.

For more reading, here is a wonderful article stating 20 great reasons to have a doula by you or your partner’s side during labor.



An insightful share from Cherish's Resident Doula, Aaryn, about how she felt arriving home after being part of a birth:

"...Fresh from a birth, I can say that I feel lost today and a bit of sorrow. Not because I am sad, but because I miss that woman so much. I know she is well, happy and has her baby in her arms, but it takes me time to come down from a birth. To realize that my presence was incredibly impactful in those moments and that it is now needed for another mama-to-be in the near future. This sorrow is my labor/birth withdrawals. I was absolutely high on life yesterday. I never feel as clear about anything in my life as I do when in the presence of a laboring mother. I felt eager to come home after 16-hours with Lovely, but as soon as I walked out of those doors I felt empty. I give my all to every woman that I serve. My love, strength, confidence, compassion, knowledge and happiness were all hers in that time. Every mother who I am with, who I offer my support to completely surrenders in my arms, which gives me all the strength in the world to endure the labor with her and to continue to find the strength to encourage her, and remind her how truly amazing she is. I observe, I stay present and focused so that I know what she needs before she opens her eyes to ask for help. My eyes are there to meet hers, and I listen to her even when no words are spoken. I love being a doula, and I am so grateful and honored for every opportunity I am given to serve." 

-Aaryn Leineke, Doula + Co-Founder of Cherish