What's A Doula?
This is a very common question I get asked whenever I introduce myself at a workshop or someone just finished reading my card or website. The running joke in my family is I had to pick some of the more ‘obscure career paths’ available just to be different. However, in all seriousness becoming a Doula as well as a Naturopathic Doctor was like fitting together two puzzle pieces when I had no idea that there was a possibility of finding that missing puzzle piece.
So what is a Doula anyway? I asked my classmate one Monday when I was still in Naturopathic college. She was telling us about the amazing weekend course she'd just finished. Well it comes from the Greek, meaning a woman who serves. The term ‘Doula’ was used to describe the role of the woman or women who attended births. In some cultures, women would give birth either by themselves or with the support of other women, and those who did have attendants, tended to have better outcomes. I was fascinated! I had only known about midwives as the 'alternative' to doctor attended births in hospitals. I didn't know there were other birth professionals out there, or that it was something I might consider doing. I had considered midwifery as a career prior to choosing Naturopathic Medicine, but once that choice was made I didn't think I could meld the birth world with Naturopathic Medicine in such a complementary and harmonious way.
Once I started my own journey into becoming a doula I realized that today, the term doula is a bit more recognized and is becoming more and more common place every day. A doula is now recognized as a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and after birth, as well as some of the postpartum period. The primary role being as a: support and resource for health and birth care. They do not constitute a replacement for a midwife or other healthcare practitioner, but are a complimentary form of healthcare for the mother and baby. What really intrigued me was the amount of research that showed how much of a benefit having a doula present provided to mom and baby. Studies have actually shown that when doulas attend births, labours are shorter, have fewer complications (like c-sections), babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily (Hodnett et al., 2011).
Even though our primary concern is for mother and by extension the Mom and baby dyad, we’re also there to help the rest of the family too. Don't worry Dad, we didn't forget about you. Hodnett et al., (2011) shows that parents who receive support can:
Having someone else present during pregnancy and birth who can help you navigate all the vast amounts of information and work with you to advocate for you and with you only increases your chances of having the best possible birth experience. My clients who work with me also get the benefit of my Naturopathic knowledge and skills. Being a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula allows me to offer so much more complete care to the families I work with, and they often elect to continue care with me as a family after the baby is born. The birth location that can impact whether I am able to utilize all my tools, but no matter the circumstances, the end goal stays the same: for Mom and baby (and family) to have the most positive start to their lives together.
Have questions about doulas or whether having a doula involved in your birth is right for you? Feel free to contact me by email or by phone. I also still have a few spots left for the summer on my calendar if you’re still looking for a Doula to join your birth team.
Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, Weston J. Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003766. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub3.
I am a Naturopathic Doctor and Doula providing care in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I have a passion for helping people with their health issues and improving the birth experience for Moms, and their babies. I also have a life long love affair with soccer, curling, and the alto saxophone.