A doula, the Greek term for “a mother’s servant,” is an experienced woman who “mothers the mother,” helping the new mom and her family during or after the birth in a nonclinical capacity. “The doula works with the couple or support team,” explained certified doula Chan McDermott, MPA, who is also a certified Bradley Method instructor. “Her goal is not to get between a woman and her partner, but to help the support person be as effective as possible. She can also help demystify some of the ‘medicalese’ and technology — help a woman to understand what her options are.”

There is another care provider called a monitrice who can perform clinical skills, such as checking heart tones and dilation, but these are not services provided by the doula.

According to Luna Wood, certified doula, breast-feeding educator and owner of Labor Support Services, a doula’s services can include many things.

Before the Birth

  • Conduct a birth-planning meeting during which the doula consults with the couple and discusses the interventions that can happen in the hospital.
  • Help the parents go through their birth plan and decide what’s important to them.
  • Share information.
  • Meet and consult with the healthcare provider.

During the Birth

  • Massage the laboring woman.
  • Help coach the laboring woman.
  • Apply cool washcloths or hot packs to help make the mother more comfortable.
  • Coach the partner and help him relax.

After Delivery

  • Assist with breast-feeding.
  • Help with nutrition.
  • Help with baby care.

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