Sunday, June 14, 2009


Everyone wants to know what exactly a doula does. Doulas are usually lay women who have studied to be a birth attendant. They meet with you before the birth and give you tips for managing the end of your pregnancy. They also are on-call to labor with you. Female birth attendants fulfill the role of nurturer, friend and confidant. They are the women that are there for you during your labor at home and also in the hospital. They are different from labor and delivery nurses that the hospital hires to administer medical interventions.

Studies have shown that having a female in attendance can really make a differnce to you in terms of how and how long that you labor. I call it our modern day answer to the red tent. Before this modern era, women had moms and grandmas, aunts, sisters and friends to help them through the milestones of their lives. A community of women provided for the safety and security of a woman through first menstruation, marriage, pregnancy, labor and delivery, widowhood and old age. Now, with this modern age of industrialization and upward mobilty we find ourselves far away and far removed from the comfort and security of the women that we trust to help us along the way, a way that the literature has shown that men ( even your best friend/husband ) cannot. There is a wisdom and collective conscienceness about the intuitive and learned behaviors that are necessary to accomplish our roles as women, including how to best labor and deliver. Doulas learn from other doulas how best to comfort and console, protect and support you while you are laboring and delivering your baby.

They do not take the role of your midwife or doctor or the nurses at the birthing facility. They generally are not nurses and they aren't on-staff at the hospital or birthing center so they won't be the ones that start IVs or assist the team. They don't perform any medical interventions so they are focused on comfort measures. Positioning and how to move to facilitate the labor. Cool cloths and an encouraging word. So that you feel that there is someone there who truly understands what you need and how to make you comfortable, emotionally and physically.

Your husband can't know what it feels like and he may not be the one you want giving you that kind of advice and support when you are labor. Why is it that so often these men afterwards say their wives were not nice to them while they were laboring? Who wants a man telling them what to do; when they don't have a clue ( and never will ) about labor and delivery. Husbands: take heart, there are lots of things that just your physical presence provides. Afterall, a big strong man will make sure to keep the bears out of the cave. And that's what is prehistorically the husband's role. To stand outside of the circle of women, the red tent and before then, the cave to keep the predators out.

So doulas are a good thing, especially if you don't have mom or aunt, best girlfriend or sister near by when you have your baby. And doulas do that fourth trimester too! That's when you have to bring this seven pound wonder home and simulate the conditions of the womb until that kid gets that this is the real world. Doulas can teach you all you need to know about caring and comforting that little one. makes life easier, all around. Hire a doula if you think you'd like one.