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How to Find a Good Doula

by Sophie Cosic

For many parents today, the issues that surround childbirth don’t only concern the various birthing methods or the reputation of a particular hospital or obstetrician. There can be a myriad of factors to consider. Increasingly, women are turning to doulas for emotional and physical support when they give birth. And for some, this support continues in the postpartum period.

Numerous research studies have shown that women who are assisted by doulas during childbirth are more likely to experience a happier labor with less associated health problems. Many women find their ability to cope with pain increases and they feel empowered to give birth without the aid of pain medication. The risk of having a cesarian, an episiotomy and a forceps or ventouse delivery also tends to lessen.

Confidence in breastfeeding and other mothering skills can grow.  And a number of women even discover that their ‘body image’ changes and they begin to view themselves as strong and capable rather than vulnerable and dependent. For many couples the process of childbirth can be overwhelming and they may feel very anxious.  This is when support from a doula can prove invaluable.  Her vast experience in the many aspects of labor often gives great comfort to both parents. Some men find the presence of a doula extremely beneficial.  A hospital environment is at times intimidating and distressing.  During the birth the father may have his own emotional needs to address as well as those of his partner.  A good doula will help to ease the burden without detracting from the man’s role.

Typically, there are three types of doula; the labor support doula, the postpartum doula and the community doula.  It is best to look at their functions individually.

The Labor Support Doula

The labor support doula provides a continuous presence throughout the birth, giving emotional and physical support to the expectant couple.  This can be very reassuring, especially in a hospital, where staff changeovers are inevitable.

During a birth the doula will not perform any medical procedures, for example, heart rate checks or other physical examinations.  Their role is to comfort and encourage the woman, incorporating relaxation techniques such as aromatherapy, reflexology and massage.  They may also explain clinical procedures to the parents.

A labor support doula will assist in either a home or hospital birth and she will remain with the couple and their baby for a few hours after the birth has taken place, to help with breastfeeding or any other requirements the parents may have.

The Postpartum Doula

The postpartum doula is trained to provide aftercare for the mother and new baby within the family unit. She will assist the mother in all aspects of childrearing and generally provide emotional support. She may also help with light housework, the preparation of meals and to integrate the newborn into family life.

The Community Doula

Community Doulas are available to aid members of society who are unable to receive adequate support from others.  They may include teenage mothers, single parents and newly arrived immigrants. The role of a labor support doula and a postpartum doula are usually combined to provide continuous and reliable assistance, both during and after the birth.
Their services are low cost and sometimes even free. Community doulas are usually accessible via a hospital doula program, though not all hospitals offer this service.

Where to Find a Reliable Doula

In the USA and Canada doulas are not required to have any form of certification.  However, there are several doula certification organisations, where couples can find a professional doula that has reliable credentials.
Details of these organisations can be found on the internet, using a search engine.

There are other ways of sourcing dependable doulas.  It’s always good to speak to friends or other acquaintances, as word of mouth information can be very reliable. If you attend a birthing class there may information available about local doulas. Make sure you interview at least three of four individuals, before you make any firm decisions and always go with your intuition.

Have a list of questions ready for when you do interviews. Here are some examples;

  • How much experience does the doula have?
  • Do they have good references from other, satisfied parents?
  • Do they have the right credentials?
  • Which relaxation techniques will they use during the birth?
  • What will the financial costs be?

If finances are an issue, it is possible to find low cost or even free doula services, if you are willing to accommodate a doula who is still in training.  They will be grateful for the experience.  Ask any qualified doulas you speak with, if they could recommend a capable trainee.

Above all it is important to find a doula that will support your family’s needs, and is non-judgemental of your beliefs. The assistance and support of a dependable and experienced expert can help to make the birth of your child a stress-free and fulfilling experience.

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