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What Is a Doula?

A newborn crying

A trend that has been growing alongside midwives in the labor and delivery world is the use of doulas.  A doula is a person who provides support to the expectant mother during the labor and delivery process.  Sometimes called a “labor coach,” the doula is not a medical professional.  Doulas are tasked with providing physical and emotional support, sometimes even for years after the delivery.

Certification and Education

There is little regulation of the doula profession; however there are groups that offer certification and training.  Unlike most medical professionals, however, there is little in the way of consistency, even among groups that provide certification.  A doula may not be required to have any formal education, including even a high school diploma or equivalency.  Training courses often last between two and three days, but may also require hands-on practice during a delivery.  Some hospitals have internal doula programs, and can provide recommendations.

Some certifications include DONA International, CAPPA and countless others.

What Can Doulas Do?

A doula can help an expectant mother create a labor and delivery plan, and will typically stay with the woman through the labor.  She may work with other healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses and midwives, to facilitate communication and to help ensure that the mother’s birth plan is realized.  Importantly, a doula may help to advocate for an expectant mother.

A doula’s main job is to help comfort the mother, and they may use pain relief and relaxation techniques and encouraging verbal support.  Most doulas, unlike doctors and nurses, will stay with the mother during the whole process.

Doulas may also be involved after the child’s birth, and may help with housework, assist with postpartum adjustment, and provide emotional support.

What Can Doulas Not Do?

A doula should not provide medicine, or give medical advice.  Conflict sometimes arises when a doula attempts to persuade the expectant mother to avoid epidurals, or to pursue a natural childbirth instead of a cesarean section. Most doulas do not have the medical training to provide such advice.  A doula can be a very valuable member of the birthing team, but should not overstep her boundaries.  You can read one woman’s cautionary tale here.

Contact Us

If you believe any member of your health care team caused harm to your baby, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation.

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