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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 physicalsupport during pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum. (NOTE: In some areas, the termdoula only refers to postpartum help, in this FAQ I am dealing only with Labor support.). They call themselves many things including: Childbirth Assistant, Labor SupportProfessional, Birth Assistant, Birth Companion, etc.

    A doula does not speak for a couple, provide medical or clinical skills (Monitrices arenurses or midwives who provide labor support with clinical skills.), or act in anyunprofessional 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 morecomfortable
    • help with preparation of a birth plan
    • massage and other non-pharmacologicalpain relief measures
    • positioning suggestions during labor and birth
    • helps support thepartner 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, Easierand 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 willspecifically 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 besubject 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 youare working with a midwife and have a young, breastfeeding baby, sometimes it works outthat you can bring that child.)
  • Can you handle lack of sleep? (Unfortunately for everyone involved, babies do not care ifit's 2 am and you haven't slept for three days, they are ready NOW. Some people canhandle 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 bedifficult. 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 reallyhas a fear of tearing and would prefer an episiotomy. Can you give her information and lether 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:

    1100-23rd Ave. East
    Seattle, WA 98112


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

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

    National Association of Childbirth Assistants (NACA)

    snail mail address:

    219 Meridian Ave.
    San Jose, CA 95167



    Personal Stories

    Being a doula means taking EVERYTHINGyou are, everything you have learned about life, and channelling it in yourown way to provide the best possible support for a family. It means workingto give the birth experience back to the people it belongs to. It meanslearning (sometimes the hard way) that the forces of life...and ofdeath...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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