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For thousands of years, women have been the primary overseers of the process of pregnancy and childbirth- in the form of mothers as well as local midwives. Due to the massive changes occurring during a pregnancy, individuals were needed to provide informed advice as well as emotional encouragement to help women through their pregnancy, delivery, as well as how to care for their newborns. While physicians and nurses provided proper healthcare, there was a large void in the health field for professionals who provided compassionate, one-on-one care to women during this important period of their life. This void is filled by doulas.
Doulas are professionals that provide women with continuous emotional and physical support during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. The term doula is Ancient Greek for “a woman who serves.” Dana Raphael, an anthropologist, was the first to use this term, in reference to experienced mothers who help new mothers with breastfeeding. The term has stuck, but now refers to women who are certified professionals providing continuous care to women before, during, and directly after childbirth.
There are two types of doulas; birth doulas and postpartum doulas. Birth doulas assist women in preparing and carrying out a birth. They provide emotional support, information, and utilize alternative methods like massage to help a mother through the process. They advise pregnant mothers on birthing techniques. Doula-assisted births have shown to reduce the need of intervention methods such as epidurals, the use of forceps, cesarean sections, and pitocin augmentation.
Postpartum doulas offer emotional and physical support, education and nonjudgmental advice after a birth. They help women through post-childbirth pain by providing massages and emotional encouragement, teach new mothers how to breastfeed and care for infants, advise on proper family adjustment, assist with meal preparation, and perform other tasks to help the mother recover. They do not provide clinical support that a nurse or physician can offer.
A doula receives training in the birth and/or postpartum specialties. Becoming a certified birth doula requires a 16+ hour introductory workshop, five books of reading material, purchase of a birth doula certification packet, and the completion of one or more of the following: training in Childbirth Education or Midwifery, work experience in labor and delivery as a registered nurse, observation of a 12 hour Childbirth Preparation education series, or a certified “Introduction to Childbearing class”. Service must then be provided and documented for a minimum of three clients for certification eligibility. Recertification is required every three years.
A postpartum doula must follow a similar curriculum with a focus on post-birth child and mother health as well as breastfeeding. Required reading, a 27 hour certified workshop, evaluations from clients and healthcare professional, personal accounts for each certifying postpartum experience, and multiple essays must be submitted for certification eligibility. Recertification is required every three years.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
A certified doula has the suffix of CD(DONA) which stands for Certified Doula or PCD(DONA) which stands for Postpartum Certified Doula. DONA International is the certifying and regulation body for the doula profession worldwide.
DONA International is the main global professional organization for doulas. They mandate training curriculums, provide certification, maintain regulation, and promote the profession of doulas.
Prices for birth doulas range from $200 to $750 per birth. Prices will vary depending on your location and level of training by your doula.