Updated: Nov 30, 2019
What is a Birth Doula?
The word doula is of Greek origin, and means "women's servant." Today, a birth doula is best known as a trained professional hired by a woman to support her during her pregnancy, birth, and/or possibly for some short time in the postpartum period. To clarify, a birth doula is not a trained medical professional (though some doulas do have that background experience to support their practice). Though not a medical professional, the support that a doula can provide for an expecting or recently delivered mother and her family can be an invaluable asset during this time of great transition. It comes in a variety of forms, depending on the mother's specific needs and wants, and includes informational, physical, and emotional assistance. They can help empower you with knowledge on how to advocate for yourself during your labor, and will discuss with you your birth partner your preferences and wishes prior to your labor. This way, you can discuss them with your medical provider during your prenatal visits and everyone remains on the same page.
***On a side note, working with me at Strong as a Mother during one of my small group childbirth preparation classes or individualized consultations is another great way you can work through your birth preferences, but I digress!
How do I find a Birth Doula? Where do Birth Doulas get their Training?
There are multiple professional agencies that certify doulas. When making the choice to utilize their services, please do your homework. Find out where your prospective birth doula has received certification. Learn about their experience attending births. Consider asking if they've worked at your delivering hospital before. Have them describe whether they are able to help with any postpartum needs, and ask them about their style of practicing with their clients. Take that time to interview them. See if you jive together. Check references and testimonials. This point is really important, because the profession itself is unregulated and unlicensed.
If you're not sure where to begin to look for a qualified doula, visit the websites of some of the major certfiying agencies. These include:
Doulas of North America (DONA) International
International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)
Childbirth and Postpartum Association (CAPPA)
To avoid rushing the process, I'd recommend looking for a doula sometime in the mid-second trimester of your pregnancy. This way you will avoid the risk of your best match not being able to take you on as a client due to having other clients scheduled to be delivered around the same time as you. Contact your delivering hospital as well. Some hospitals, such as Danbury Hospital, can help pair you with a birth doula prior to the day of your delivery.