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So, you want to be a Doula. FAQ


Topics included in this FAQ:

  • What is a doula?
  • What does it take to be a doula?
  • Training to be a doula.
  • Personal Stories
  • Books to Read


    What is a doula?


    The term doula is Greek for slave or servant. Doulas provide emotional and physical support during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. (NOTE: In some areas, the term doula only refers to postpartum help, in this FAQ I am dealing only with Labor support.). They call themselves many things including: Childbirth Assistant, Labor Support Professional, Birth Assistant, Birth Companion, etc.

    A doula does not speak for a couple, provide medical or clinical skills (Monitrices are nurses or midwives who provide labor support with clinical skills.), or act in any unprofessional manner (Most organizations have Policies that each doula must follow.).

    A doula provides:

    • explanations of medical procedures
    • emotional support
    • advice during pregnancy
    • exercise and physical suggestions to make pregnancy more comfortable
    • help with preparation of a birth plan
    • massage and other non-pharmacological pain relief measures
    • positioning suggestions during labor and birth
    • helps support the partner so that they can love and encourage the laboring woman
    • avoid unnecessary interventions
    • help with breastfeeding preparation and beginnings,
    • written record of the birth
    • many other possibilities that vary from doula to doula

    According to Mothering the Mother, How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth, by Kennell, Klaus, and Kennell (1993), having a doula can give you a:

  • 50% reduction in cesarean rates
  • 25% shorter labor
  • 60% reduction in epidural requests
  • 40% reduction in oxytocin (pitocin) use
  • 30% reduction in analgesia use
  • 40% reduction in forceps delivery


    What does it take to be a doula?


    Almost anyone with a desire to helping birthing women and their families can be a doula. Some doulas are trained and certified, others just have on the job experience. We will specifically discuss training later in this FAQ.

    Things you need to consider when deciding about becoming a doula:

  • Do you have the time? (Most doulas do not work for hospitals or birth centers and must be subject to being on call 24 hours a day.)
  • Do you have child care for your children? (Finding a 24 hour daycare is a tough job, sometimes partners can help, sometimes other doulas or family members can help. If you are working with a midwife and have a young, breastfeeding baby, sometimes it works out that you can bring that child.)
  • Can you handle lack of sleep? (Unfortunately for everyone involved, babies do not care if it's 2 am and you haven't slept for three days, they are ready NOW. Some people can handle sleep deprivation and others can't. Birth is one of those unpredictable things.)
  • Are you able to separate your agenda from the birthing family's desires? (This can be difficult. You have to learn that everyone has a different opinion and it isn't always yours. For example, you think that the episiotomy rate is way too high, but a particular mom really has a fear of tearing and would prefer an episiotomy. Can you give her information and let her make her own decision?)


    Training to be a doula.


    Here are a few training organizations:

    Doulas of North America (DONA)

    1-206-324-5440 will put you in contact with members in your area.

    AskDONA@aol.com is the e-mail address.

    snail mail address:

    DONA
    1100-23rd Ave. East
    Seattle, WA 98112

    ALACE

    ALACEHQ@aol.com for e-mail
    snail mail address:

    ALACE
    PO Box 382724
    Cambridge, MA 02074
    (617)441-2500
    FAX: (617)441-3167

    National Association of Childbirth Assistants (NACA)

    snail mail address:

    NACA
    219 Meridian Ave.
    San Jose, CA 95167
    (408)225-9167

    Bradley

    1-800-4-A-BIRTH


    Personal Stories


    Being a doula means taking EVERYTHING you are, everything you have learned about life, and channelling it in your own way to provide the best possible support for a family. It means working to give the birth experience back to the people it belongs to. It means learning (sometimes the hard way) that the forces of life...and of death...are to be given the utmost respect. To be present at this time, this unfolding of lifes mystery, is the ultimate privilage. -Darlene


    Book to Read


  • The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin, PT, CD(DONA)
  • The Birth Book by Dr. William and Martha Sears, RN IBCLC
  • Special Women, Polly Perez
  • Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier & Healthier Birth by John H. Kennell , Phyllis H. Klaus , Marshall H. Klaus
  • "The Whole Nine Months," Parenting, Gayle Pryor, May 1992, p34.
  • Active Birth by Janet Balaskas
  • Good Birth, Safe Birth by Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer
  • Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCuthcheon
  • Silent Knife: Cesarean Prevention & VBAC by Nancy Wainer Cohen & Lois Estner
  • Open Season: A Survival Guide for Natural Birth and VBAC in the 90's by Nancy Wainer Cohen
  • Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities by Henci Goer
  • Natural Birth After Cesarean: A Practical Guide by Johanne C. Walters , Karis Crawford
  • Easing Labor Pain by Adrienne Lieberman
  • Rebounding From Childbirth: Towards Emotional Recovery by Lynn Madsen



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