Updated: Feb 19
As a professional childbirth educator, a full-spectrum doula birth coach, and an Elite Doula Birth Coach trainer, I believe every single soon-to-be mom and pregnant mom needs to hire a doula. Yes, she needs a doula. There were almost 4 million babies born in the U.S. in 2018, yet interestingly enough, a nationwide survey in 2012, revealed only 6% of women who gave birth in the U.S. received supportive doula services. That same study found that of the 75% of women who had no doula support had heard of doulas and 27% of those women reported they would have liked to have a doula's support. There is a huge gap between the desire for a doula's support and the number of moms who actually utilized and benefited from a doula during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
A doula is not just for the hippie-dippy, crunchy mom who wants an all-natural under water birth in a yurt. Doulas are not just a trendy new thing you’ve been hearing about on the rich and famous moms’ Instagram posts. A doula is not only for the single mom without a husband/partner or other natural support systems. And, a doula does not replace your OB or midwife, she does not provide you and your baby medical treatment, and she does not catch your baby.
So, What Is a Doula Anyway?
Well, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” ~ Dr. John Kendall
The terms doula and birth coach are quite often used interchangeably. Regardless, the concept of having a doula or birth coach is nothing new. A doulas roots date back to the beginning of time, as evidence of doulas supporting birthing women have been depicted in countless ancient archeological findings. In modern times, the term doula was first coined in the 1960s by Dana Raphael, a pioneering advocate in the natural birthing and breastfeeding movement in the United States during the 1970s. Since then, doulas have unfairly been associated with the hippy all-natural birthing scene. Thankfully, over time, societal views on doulas have changed, and their value is being widely recognized throughout both the professional medical and natural birthing communities alike.
A doula provides mom with the most up-to-date evidence-based education, as well as personal and individualized support throughout her pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. According to The American Pregnancy Association, “The doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. Their purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience.”
To me, a doula is so much more, and since there is a lot of misguided and inaccurate information floating around out there about what a doula is and is not, as well as her scope of practice, I want to clear a few things up.
Dou·la /ˈdo͞olə/ - comes from ancient Greek term meaning a woman who serves or a woman slave and it’s sometimes referred to as “mothering the mother.” A doulas knowledge includes professional training, as well as ancestral wisdom passed down from generation-to-generation. Today, doulas are sometimes referred to as non-medically trained labor coaches.
Doulas have professional training and experience in fertility, pregnancy, labor & delivery, childbirth education, postpartum maternal care and well-being, newborn/infant care and early childhood parenting, and sometimes PAIL (Pregnancy and Infant Loss) bereavement knowledge and skill either through an organization, her own experiences, private training, or any combination of her life experiences.
She is a practitioner. She is a professional. She is a birthworker. She is a birth coach. She is a DOULA.
She gives professional, emotional, educational and informational support to moms during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and loss.
She is all-knowing in childbirth education.
She is a breastfeeding guru.
She is moms advocate and speaks up when mom can’t find her own voice due to trauma, fear, or lack of knowledge.
She is a postpartum and maternal mental health professional.
She statistically has helped birthing moms have more satisfying births with lower incidences of unnecessary medical interventions during labor and delivery.
She statistically has helped lower the risk of postpartum depression.
She works hard.
She DESERVES a living wage.
She is her own boss - a boss babe.
She is NOT a maid - despite what some may think.
She is NOT a high-priced nanny.
She is NOT always without medical or mental health training.
She comes with her own unique skill set.
She is NOT ethically bound to someone or some big agencies ideals of scope of practice or ideals on how she supports women - one size does not fit all.
She is NOT limited in her own unique abilities as dictated by some certifying agencies.
She is NOT formally or legally regulated by any state entity - or other doulas’ beliefs for that matter!
She has full autonomy - the same we strive to give our clients.
In the end, if you my sister doula, have the experience, knowledge, training, skill set, life experiences and ability to serve a woman in anyway outside the parameters some larger agencies have set for their own benefit - and it does not legally or ethically venture into a regulated professional scope of practice that you are not qualified for - then by all means DO YOU!
Doula - DO YOU!
PS - I do want to add that if a doula is trained in other professions such as a social worker, pastor, massage therapist, herbalist, nurse, counselor, therapist, coach, etc., and is serving her clients in a dual role wearing multiple hats - it is ethically best practice to be transparent and make her additional role/skill set known to her clients.
That is what a Doula is!