“Doula? Oh . . . like a midwife?” is probably the number one comment, along with a confused look, that I now get when I tell people my job. I totally get it; I too had no idea what a doula was until I watched The Business of Being Born. After the movie, I googled the term. I even thought, “Well I would have a midwife, so I would not need a Doula!” Boy, was I wrong. No, a doula is not a midwife, though they do often work together. So, what is a Doula then?
Another name for a doula is a labor support person. There is debate in our community of what we should be called because some find the term Doula demeaning, since it means to “serve”. I, however, think it is an instant conversation starter; sounds cool, and therefore like the name. Plus, we do serve; we serve our families.
A Doula supports the client and partner however they may need. This can be physically, emotionally, psychologically, informational, or even spiritually. Labor is a lot of work! It can be sweaty and exhausting physically and emotionally. A Doula can help a mother pace her efforts, facilitate position changes, provide comfort measures, maintain a calm and positive birth space, and even simply provide a reassuring presence.
Doulas are also often a great resource. They can provide you with information, as needed, before, during, and after the birth. As a Birth Boot Camp Doula, I was required to read many books as part of the certification process, and to remain certified I need to read and stay up-to-date on the latest research. Most Doulas also have a local resource list, and can make suggestions depending on your needs. Doulas also come from different backgrounds and experiences that add to their knowledge.
Between visits, a Doula further assists clients by answering questions via phone, email, or text. This labor support person is often on-call for a month around your estimated due date as well; ready for the big day!
A doula does not replace a partner. Instead, the doula supports the partner by encouraging closeness, assisting with comfort measures, providing suggestions, giving breaks, and answering questions.
So, back to the original question, doesn’t a midwife do all this? They may, but this is not their primary responsibility. A midwife is a medically trained professional, with the number one responsibility of the safety of both mom and baby. They are often busy with assessments, charting, vital signs, postpartum care, newborn assessments, and whatever else they may need to do.
The doula’s role, on the other hand, is not as the medically trained professional, regardless of previous experience. They will not perform any medical skills, but instead, will explain what is going on, hold your hand, and be there for you and your partner. The doula is there to focus on you and your overall birth experience. They can also assist you with breastfeeding, postpartum care; listen to your birth story, and check-in postpartum to see how you and your family are adjusting.
So, there you have it! No, a midwife and a doula are not the same thing, but they can both be a valuable part of your birth team. So, go find one that will “serve” you today!
I support families through pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. For more information on services and classes visit MY – Birth & Baby Website!