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Doula

Find a Doula in Seattle

A Doula is a non-medical assistant trained in prenatal care, childbirth preparation and care during the postpartum period.  Labor support doulas are trained and experienced labor support practitioners who attend to the emotional and physical comfort needs of laboring women. Doulas do not perform clinical tasks such as physical exams, heart rate checks, or vaginal exams but rather focus on the care of the laboring woman with massage, aromatherapy, and positioning suggestions to help labor progress as well as possible. A labor support doula joins a laboring woman either at her home or in a hospital or birth center and remains with her until a few hours after the birth. Helpful positions, exercises, and a written record of the birth may be provided by doulas.
Birth is a time of emotional release and a transition to accommodate a new life. Doulas specialize in providing emotional support for the labor process.  In addition to emotional support, doulas work as advocates of their client's wishes and may assist in communicating with medical staff for the client to make informed decisions regarding medical procedures.  Many mothers prefer having a doula help make decisions due to the distractions of the pain and emotions during childbirth.

Postpartum doulas offer families evidence-based information and support on topics such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing, and coping skills for new parents. Some doulas may also help with light housework, fix a meal and help incorporate an older child into this new transition in life.  Postpartum doulas teach new mothers how to breastfeed as well as troubleshooting any problems a new mother may have with milk production and expression.

Community doulas play an important role for women at risk for complications by providing labor care and information in populations that have little access to prenatal care due to financial considerations.  Community doulas tend to combine the roles of labor support and postpartum doulas to offer continuous encouragement and reassurance to pregnant women with little social support or financial resources.  Community doulas may work with pregnant teens by giving them individual attention and instruction in childcare skills so they can attain proficiency and confidence in their ability to care for their new infant.

Doulas work with mothers on topics such as preventing subsequent pregnancy, breastfeeding tips, and increasing the quality of the mother-infant bond directly after birth in order to increase the chances of secure mother-infant attachment throughout early childhood.  Doulas provide information for fathers and family members to foster appropriate and helpful ways of supporting the mother during the labor and post labor periods, thus helping to increase the collective participation in birthing for all family members.  A doula can be an important communication tool between mothers, their families, and medical professionals providing care.  Facilitation of birth by a doula often helps prevent unnecessary interventions.  

In the United States and Canada, doulas are not required to be certified; however certification is available through several different organizations. Some states and some medical facilities may require a doula to be certified through a national or their own certification bodies.

Author: Christopher Holder, ND Candidate '07

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