By Sara Santa Cruz
Some of you reading this may already know what a doula is by word of mouth or personal experience.
Maybe you had a doula (or know someone who did) during labor or in the days and weeks following their birth. Others may be thinking…what is a doula and why should I care? Well, let’s dive in!
What is a doula?
The word “doula” comes from the Greek language and means “a woman who serves.” In modern times, we associate doulas with those who serve others, primarily during childbirth and in the postpartum period.
Doulas do not offer medical advice and are not to be confused with midwives. Doulas serve the woman giving birth by providing undivided attention, care, and compassion and assisting them physically, mentally, and emotionally.
What if you have a partner, parent, or friend who is able to be with you throughout your labor—does that negate the benefits a doula? The answer to this is definitely NO!
Doula’s role during labor and birth
Doulas are trained to care for the woman giving birth, but this can also mean allowing the partner or other “support” person in the room a chance to get something to eat, close their eyes, make a phone call…all while ensuring that the person in labor never feels alone or scared.
What if you can’t afford the rate of doulas that you’ve seen online or advertised at hospitals?
You can always ask hospitals, other doulas and midwives if they know of doulas who offer sliding fee scales. Many doulas offer discounted rates (or even free services) when they are in training.
A doula will hold your hand, help you breathe, rub your back, and provide nonjudgmental support to you and your family throughout the end of your pregnancy and until you give birth.
Doula’s role after baby is born
You can also hire a postpartum doula to help you when you bring your baby home.
Postpartum doulas are trained in infant care and breastfeeding, and can help with small chores around the house, meal preparation, errands, and can ensure that you are able to rest, eat, and ease into the transition of caring for a newborn and yourself.
Benefits of having a doula
Benefits of having a doula include:
- Decreases the cesarean rate by 50%
- Decreases length of labor by 25%
- Increases natural oxytocin release (which decreases stress, fear, and anxiety, and increases the strength and effectiveness of contractions, in other words the potential for a less painful and more pleasant birth!)
- Decreases epidural use by 60%
Whether you are planning an unmedicated birth, a birth utilizing interventions (like pain medications), or a cesarean birth, a doula can be there to support you, help you make informed decisions, and set you on a path toward a safer and overall more satisfying birth experience.
For more information about low-cost doula support, contact Accessible Birth Connection Colorado.
Sara Santa Cruz is a birth doula, postpartum doula, and childbirth educator in Golden. Her company, Meta Birth Essentials, is dedicated to supporting families as they grow and change. She offers a sliding scale and scholarships for those who qualify. Visit metabirthessentials.com or facebook.com/metabirthessentials or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.