The Postpartum Doula: Why Every Expectant Mother Needs One

October 3, 2016

When it comes to childbirth which answers would newborn mothers be interested in?

  • Reduce the likelihood of postpartum depression.
  • Decrease labor time.
  • Reduce the need for a cesarean.
  • Decrease in pain medicines?
  • Reduce the need for an epidermal.

Regardless of how many children they’ve had most women would be interested in all of these answers. Believe it or not, many of the physical and emotional difficulties of childbirth can be alleviated by having a doula assist the mother.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the childcare specialist who plays an integral role in the birth of a newborn and for the most part, has managed to remain almost unheard of despite their importance.

What Is A Doula?

Doula is a Greek word that means “a women who serves”. They are trained professionals who assist and comfort a mother during pregnancy and after childbirth.

The concept of a doula isn’t anything new, the concept of women assisting and comforting an expecting mother has been a common practice in different cultures. Sarah Buckley, MD and author of the book Gentle Birth, Gentle mothering, in the video above, compared the importance of having a doula to birth patterns evident in nature saying:

“Many animals actually have helpers to help them feel private safe and observed during the labor process. For example, an elephant will be surrounded by a circle of female elephants to sooth her with their trunks… and obviously they form a formidable barrier to any predator. That laboring female in the middle of that circle feels very safe. But she also feels private in that familiar social circle… Taking in familiar people into the hospital to be your elephants is useful as well. I particularly recommend a doula, taking in someone who is familiar with that environment, someone you’ve got to know during your pregnancy, you feel emotionally safe with them and you can guard your emotional well-being in labor, I think that’s really the key.”

Kelly Sunshine, a professional doula explained her profession, in the video above, saying:

“A doula is another word for labor coach, it’s a Greek term, it is someone who is hired by a couple to help them through the process before, during and after childbirth… I have some clients who will seek me out as early as eight weeks pregnant, but for the majority, they’ll look for someone around 30 weeks…”

In addition, doulas fill a necessary void in today’s modern family unit. Parents may find themselves away from their families and without the support of grandmothers, aunts or other female companionship.

What are the Responsibilities of a Doula?

Doulas help mothers with basic newborn care questions, like how to properly hold and feed the child as well as care for the baby so the mother can properly rest and recover.

A doula’s responsibilities generally concern the expecting mother but also the entire family.

Here’s a look at some of the responsibilities of a doula

  • Assisting with breastfeeding, answering questions about lactation
  • Comforting the mother after before and after childbirth
  • Some housekeeping work
  • Training and assisting the mother with bathing and changing the child’s diapers
  • Preparing meals for the mother and if necessary the family
  • A supportive figure who helps the mother and the family in any ways she can


What are the Benefits of a Doula?

Studies have shown that a doula offers tremendous assistance to the mother during the labor process. Christine Northrup, MD spoke on the obvious benefits saying:

“The presence of a doula, that’s literally a woman standing by, continuous labor support, decreased the cesarean section rate by 50% and it also speeded up labor significantly, so the average first pregnancy labor was six to eight hours. Just from having a supportive person standing by, loving the woman or mothering the mother.”

Dr. Marshall Klaus, the author of The Doula Book, pointed out the benefits having a doula based on his specific studies saying:

“…in studies of over 5000 women involving comparisons of outcomes with and without doula support… There’s a 25% drop in length of labor, 40% drop in the augmentation with oxytocin, 30% drop in pain medicines, a 40% drop in forceps and in one study we noted a 60% drop in request for epidurals.”

Can Doulas Help Prevent Post-Partum Depression?

Mothers who’ve used a doula found them to be an invaluable comfort and support system. They understood the emotional and physical trauma of childbirth and helped the mothers to control their emotions, allowing them to recover from childbirth.

Doulas also help mitigate depression because they will most likely have experience recognizing it and know things to say to the mother to help strengthen and support her. At the most fundamental level, a doula will help give a mother confidence, listening to the mother’s feelings and assuring her that she’s doing well.

For more information on post-partum depression read: Postpartum Depression: A Look at What Mothers Need to Know


It’s quite obvious, the emotional support provided by a doula ultimately has a tremendous effect on the overall pregnancy. She’s not only a friend, but she’s an assuring hand, guiding the mother through one of the most difficult periods in her life.

For more articles like this one check out the Pregnancy & Babies section of your blog.

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