A Carlisle woman is launching a business offering doula services — an announcement that, for most people, begs the question, “What is a doula?”
Amber Reynolds of Thrive Postpartum Services answers that in more detail in this week’s feature, but the short version is that a doula offers support to women either during or after birth or both.
March of Dimes, which supports increased access to doula care because of its positive effects on childbirth, said in its position statement that 6% of birthing women in the country said they used a doula during childbirth in a 2012 survey.
The statement said there is no reliable estimate on the number of doulas in the United States; a centralized online doula registration service had 9,000 registered doulas in 2018.
Doula, for what it’s worth, is a Greek word for female servant.
Q. Let’s start with the obvious. What is a doula?
A. A doula is a person who offers support, guidance, and encouragement to women either during labor or during the postpartum period. Labor doulas attend births as a support person for both the mom and her partner. They are trained and educated to support laboring women with relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, laboring positions and much more. Postpartum doulas are trained to support mothers and their partners in the days and weeks after labor. They are trained to be able to offer help with breastfeeding or formula feeding, basic newborn care and recognizing physical red flags in the mother and newborn, as well as watching for signs of postpartum mood disorders. Postpartum doulas can also help mothers through light housekeeping, preparing a meal and just holding the baby so mom can shower and take a nap without worrying. I am a postpartum doula.
Q. What training or certifications do you have to have to be a doula?
A. There are many different organizations that offer doula certification, and they all have different requirements. My training is through Active Birth Institute. The requirements for my program are to attend an 18-hour workshop, read and write a synopsis on five books related to the postpartum period, attend a breastfeeding class, attend an infant/child/adult CPR class, and two evaluations from clients.
Q. What inspired you to do this work?
A. After my sister had her children, I would go to her house and stay with her to help out. I realized how much I enjoyed being there for her and supporting her during that time. The postpartum phase is such a vulnerable time for moms. They are physically tired from the labor and being up at night feeding a newborn, and also mentally tired from the emotions that come with labor and adding a new baby to the family. Having someone there to be able to remind you that what you’re feeling is normal, to reassure you that you can do this, and providing practical help around the house helps to alleviate stress and encourage the healing process. Watching women realize their own strength as they transition into motherhood is so inspiring. Plus, what’s not to love about a job that involves snuggling brand new little babies?
Q. Is there a certain personality type that works best as a doula?
A. I think one of the most important things is for doulas to be a good listener. Sometimes part of the job is just listening to a mother tell and retell her birth story as she processes her feelings about it. Being patient and encouraging are also important traits for a doula to possess. I think doulas also need to be confident and able to take initiative if needed.
Another important trait for doulas to have is flexibility. Sometimes you will just have to go with the flow.
Q. How have new parents reacted to having such services available?
A. New parents are usually surprised at what a postpartum doula can offer for the whole family, not just the mother. I think it can also be a relief to find that kind of support available, especially for parents that don’t have family nearby. Even if parents have family nearby, it can be very helpful to have a trained, objective person to provide resources and confidence. They appreciate the peace of mind that comes with having a trained support person there to help.