I’m sure many of you have heard of a doula. The word doula actually comes from the Greek word meaning “a woman who serves.” The definition of doula (from their governing agency DONA.org) states a doula is “a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.” I would argue that a doula not only supports the mother but the entire new family.
Side note, I was a doula! Yes, you heard it correctly, this medical doctor was a doula. In college I joined a volunteer group called BirthPartners at the university hospital to support both teen moms and women who were birthing alone. I honestly believe it was this training and my work with the midwives at the hospital that ignited my passion for OBGYN.
When I ask my patients about doulas they suggest their role is dedicated to those who want a home birth or want an unmedicated birth. This is entirely not true. Doulas are there to support anyone who wants and needs it. In modern medicine people may think they don’t need the support of a birth doula if they are planning a hospital birth and an epidural however, I believe the true magic is in the postpartum doula.
Imagine arriving home with crazy hormones, hair tangled, your sitz bath and all of the creams for your bottom, a confused partner and lots of family and friends ready to offer up their expert opinion. Then picture someone who you have hired to support YOU AND BABY! Postpartum doulas are magical unicorns. They know about breastfeeding and the perineum. They know about doing laundry and meal prep. They even know how to manage the masses of people that want to visit. They can help with the first bath (both yours and babies) and are there when the shit gets real.
Many doulas can do both birth doula and postpartum work which is lovely because you have built a relationship. There is something to be said for how they did it in the old days. All of the women in town would gather at the home where a new baby was born and support the new family. The grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins and neighbors had all been through childbirth and raising a tiny human. They showed up to offer their guidance and expertise. These days many of us are not living in multi generational communities as in the past. Or maybe your entire extended family is not your idea of a supportive good time. Enter the postpartum doula.
If you want more information go to DONA.org. They have a list of doulas who are certified by their organization which is very respectable. You can also ask your healthcare provider if they have any doulas they work with regularly. You know my motto - always ask for help, lots of it!
About the Author:
Dr. Barbara Frank is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Brookline Village OBGYN. She is also a faculty member of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Frank lives in Boston and is a wife and mom of two young children.