Becoming a doula can be the most rewarding path you choose in your life, regardless of whether you are a birth doula or a postpartum doula. Both provide opportunities for being with new mothers and their babies and the miracle of life.
Birth doulas are also referred to as labor or birth assistants. Their job is to be with a pregnant mom, from her prenatal care to the delivery of her baby and shortly after. The doula develops a close bond with the family as they grow together through a new life experience.
A birth doula typically has a set fee for a specified amount of prenatal visits and being with the mother through labor and birth. Prenatally, she is able to answer questions about her own role in being an advocate for the mother during the birth of her baby.
During labor, the doula provides labor support, helping the mother cope with contractions and avoid unnecessary medical interventions. At this time she is also an advocate for the family, being sure the medical staff at the birth do not do procedures the laboring mother does not want.
The doula also provides important support during the delivery of the baby, helping her to push the baby out and welcome her into the new family. This is an important time that the doula can be sure that the practitioner does not perform procedures, such as episiotomy, if the mother is not wanting one for non-medical reasons.
Once the baby is born a doula often follows up with the family, being sure the mother stays healthy and offers helpful information with the care of the newborn, including breastfeeding. The role of the birth doula is vital especially for mothers choosing a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) or for ones who have not been able to obtain the ideal practitioner who cares about their birth experience.
The postpartum doula’s role is in the care of the mother after birth. Usually this would range from the first few days home with baby, up to one or two months after delivery. Her expertise in helping with newborn care can be crucial during the first few months when mom and baby get to know one another.
The postpartum doula can also help with housework and meals and the care of siblings when needed. The goal is to nurture the mother when she needs it most.
Both birth and postpartum doulas can be employed in and out of birthing facilities. Mostly they are hired independently by families desiring their services. Some birthing facilities have postpartum doulas on staff for the days following childbirth.
No matter where your employment is, the role of a doula is enriching and rewarding and worth considering if you enjoy working with pregnant mothers and their babies.