What is a Doula?

The word “doula” comes from the Greek word which means “a maid servant who sees to the need of her mistress.”   This term is generally used today to describe a woman who supports other women during the pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum periods.   She is a well-trained support person who understands the birth process and trusts in the ability that Allah (the Creator) has given women’s bodies, hearts and minds to facilitate the birth of their children.

A doula’s role is to build a trusting relationship with expectant parents (preferably starting during pregnancy) and to go on to provide “continuous, attentive support” to the mother during labor as a professional and capable member of the birthing team.  She is knowledgeable about the physical, emotional, and psychological changes that a woman goes through across the evolving stages of pregnancy, labor and birth.  Unlike the midwife or obstetrician, her central focus is on assessing how the mother is coping with the labor and birthing process and assisting her — if the need arises — by suggesting positions or techniques that will aid her in the successful and edifying experience of birthing her newborn.

She offers informational, emotional and physical forms of support to mother and expectant father and models support behaviors for the father.  The doula is a calming presence; she has been shown to help women feel safe and cared for and more satisfied with their birthing experience and has eased the strain of the father as he witnesses the challenges his wife faces and overcomes during the birth process. She helps to educate to the birthing couple, provides feedback about the progress of mom’s labor, helps the couple understand risks and benefits of treatment options so they can make informed, healthy choices.  All of this can substantially increase a woman’s confidence in her ability to birth successfully.

The doula’s work continues as she supports the transition of the mother/infant/father unit back into their home environment through a series of home visits.  Here she assists them with breastfeeding techniques, watching for good mother/infant interaction and maternal adjustment, makes suggestions for ways to deal with emerging challenges of the new family, and offers referrals for care and resources as needed.  Finally, she gives the mother and father an opportunity to process, reframe and reflect on the birth experience and the many lessons learned.

Research has shown that the doula’s support can reduce the need for medical interventions and can improve maternal and infant birth outcomes.