A doula is defined by Doulas of North America (DONA) as a woman who is trained and experienced in childbirth and provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman during labor, birth, and the immediate postpartum period. Women choose to labor and give birth with doula support for a wide range of needs, goals, and concerns about their childbirth experience. Many women want to be encouraged and supported as they give birth without pain medications, while other women desire a liaison between themselves and the medical staff. Some women may have no family to support them through labor, while others simply prefer an experienced female to “take the pressure off” their partner.
The role of a doula is to provide specific labor-support skills, techniques, and strategies, offer guidance and encouragement, build a team relationship with the nursing staff, encourage communication between the patient and medical caregivers, and assist the mother in covering the gaps in her care. According to DONA, a doula's role can be summarized in seven objectives:
To recognize birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all of her life;
To understand the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor;
To assist the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plan for the birth;
To stay by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor;
To provide emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint, and assistance to the woman in getting the information she needs to make good decisions;
To facilitate communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and clinical care providers; and
To perceive the doula's role as one who nurtures and protects the woman's memory of her birth experience.
Doulas use techniques such as imagery, massage, acupressure, and patterned breathing to reduce a woman's pain. They suggest position changes to accelerate labor or aid in fetal positioning. They also provide guidance and encouragement to minimize fear and anxiety and encourage touch and communication between the laboring woman and her partner.
An epi-doula is defined as a combination therapy for labor that includes a doula and an epidural.
Postpartum doulas are professionally trained to help new families navigate the early weeks of parenthood by providing evidence-based information on all aspects of newborn care, postpartum physical and emotional recovery and family adjustment. A postpartum doula will expertly offer loving support and guidance, without expectation or judgment, and prioritize your unique and individual needs as a new parent.
Most importantly, a postpartum doula will nurture your parenting instincts and help foster confidence as you develop your own, distinctive parenting style.
Gisselle Gutierrez Barbee is a mother of four, a devoted wife, proud Hispanic daughter and sister. As a doula, she holds the credentials of a certified labor doula (CLD), certified postpartum doula (CPD), and certified lactation supporter and educator (CLSE). She has been working with the birthing and non birthing community for over 15 years. She cares about supporting families and understands the day to day struggles and celebrations of living in this world and this nation. She believes in honoring our rights to vote, to attend a safe school, and to enter into safe hospitals, and she is ready and grateful to be a part of your journey.