Corey and I are so excited to share the birth of our daughter with our midwife at Special Beginnings and our doula Nicole. In order to understand what an AWESOME decision it is to have a doula at your birth, you first have to understand what they are and what they do.
First, a doula is NOT the same as a midwife. A doula does not have specific medical training. They do not perform any medical interventions. They are there to support & serve the birthing family in non-medical ways.
The word "doula" means "a woman who serves." A doula understands how birth works and is there to support the emotional needs of the mother in labor. A doula stays with the mother for the duration of her labor and birth, and in some cases, becomes a post-partum doula to help after the birth with lactation, adjustment, and even chores around the house. A doula does not take the place of a birth partner, but helps them support the laboring mother in a role they are most comfortable with. If dad needs a break, the doula is there to fill in. If you are hungry and need to refuel, the doula can prepare that for you so dad doesn't have to leave the mother's side. The doula can provide counter-pressure during contractions and back labor. She can take pictures of your labor if you so desire. The ways she can help are nearly endless. And, as if these weren't enough, studies have shown that women who were continuously supported in labor, as with a doula, had significantly shorter labors! What more reason do you need?! (You can read more about that last part here).
My husband made a great point. He loves the idea of a doula because this birth is going to be a completely new experience for him and he can get accurate information from her about what is going on without worrying, allowing him to focus on me.
A doula is overflowing with information about pregnancy, labor, choices for birth, pain management, relaxation techniques and can even help you come up with questions to ask your health care provider at your upcoming appointments. Too embarrassed to ask your doctor or midwife about that weird growth that showed up on your boob two weeks ago? Ask your doula! Chances are pretty good that it won't be the weirdest thing she's ever heard, and even if it is...so what! She's not going to head to the break room to laugh about it afterwords! (Yes...doctors and nurses do that. Sorry.)
For more information about doulas, or to find one near you, check out DONA International.
Another great place to learn about doulas and to get involved in the growing doula movement is The Doula Project.