Whether you are planning a pregnancy, just found out you're pregnant or are about to deliver, you've probably paid some thought to the actual birthing experience. In your research, chances are, you've heard the word doula bounced around and maybe have even wondered if a doula can help you with maternity care.
What is a doula?
According to Jennifer Zorich, a Colorado-based certified doula and lactation consultant, "Doulas provide educational, informational and physical support through prenatal, delivery and post-partum time frames."
A doula generally does not provide clinical (medical) services, but rather advocates for the woman so that she has the birthing experience that she envisions.
Working with a doula
A doula usually starts working with a pregnant woman between 26 and 28 weeks of gestation. This provides the soon-to-be-mom enough time to develop a rapport with the doula, identify her needs and create a birthing plan.
The doula and mom meet several times before the big day to check in, discuss the upcoming birthing process, identify postpartum needs and lay the groundwork for a successful feedback loop. "We don't take the place of a partner or spouse, but their experience is quite emotional as well," says Zorich. "Before hospitals became a popular place to give birth, women were supported by other women during pregnancy, delivery and postpartum. Doulas bring that option back."
Who should consider a doula?
Doulas support women who choose a variety of birthing methods but are especially helpful to women who want a natural childbirth. Whether you want to deliver in a hospital, at home or at a water birthing center, a doula can help make the process more comfortable and help you feel empowered through it all. Some doulas even provide extensive post-partum support, helping mothers transition into life with a newborn.
How do I find one?
Working with a doula is a very personal and emotional experience, so you need to be sure this woman is someone you want in the delivery room. "It's important to interview several different candidates," advises Zorich. "Find out about their training. Several different organizations certify doulas, so check the certification requirements to be sure you're comfortable with the training."
Once you feel connected and ready to move forward, be as honest as possible with your doula so that she can support you, answer your questions and bridge the communication gap between you and your medical professionals.
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