What is a doula and do they help?

The word doula is from a Greek word meaning woman servant.

What is a doula? How can a doula help during my pregnancy and birth?

These are the two most common questions asked by moms-to-be, especially those who are considering natural birth options. Doulas have been around for a long time, but they didn’t always have a title.

The earliest “doulas” were sisters, mothers and best friends of the laboring mom. As a profession, personal labor assistants have been around for decades.

The word doula is from a Greek word meaning woman servant. A doula helps a laboring mom gather information, educates her about birth and beyond, provides emotional support and comfort, and serves as a liaison and advocate during her labor.

Before the birth, a doula helps a laboring mom by providing information regarding her birth options. During labor and childbirth, the doula explains procedures and talks with the laboring mom in layman’s terms. Because she is not playing the role of OB or midwife, she can be helpful in ways the medical staff cannot.

Whenever your caregiver, whether it be a doctor or midwife, suggests an option or procedure such as “breaking your water,” your doula will provide you with the benefits and risks, discuss your alternatives, remind you of your birth plan, and support you regardless of what decision you make.

When a woman is laboring, trying to have a natural birth, she needs encouragement! One of a doula’s most important roles is simply telling her client she is doing a wonderful job and that what she’s feeling is completely natural.

Because of his lack of training and emotional involvement in the birth, a new father isn’t necessarily the best person to provide the specific comfort measures that a doula has the training and experience to deliver. A doula is tasked with constantly providing nourishment and comfort measures, which could include a massage of the lower back and suggesting positions in labor that will help the baby get in proper positioning for the birth.

When evaluating your birth options, consider all your options. There are many to consider, including which caregiver is right for you, all of your birthing preferences, which hospital or birthing center to use, and even what undergarments and other choices for what to wear during your pregnancy and nursing. The last option you would want to neglect is who will be part of your labor support team.

Lacy Henderson is a birth doula, co-owner of Lumina Birth, and a mother of five. Have your questions about childbirth and the labor process answered during 'Ask-a-Doula' at in Vinings Jubilee, 1 p.m. -  5 p.m., every Sunday in April except Easter (April 24th)

Smyrna-Vinings Patch's Moms Council members:

  • Jennifer Duncan has two children at King Springs Elementary.
  • Jenn Purdy is the founder and co-director of Lumina Birth. She is a childbirth educator, doula, nutrition coach, personal trainer, locavore, and mother of four awesome home-educated kids.
  • Alice Turner is a mother of four, birth doula, childbirth educator and the owner of YourBirthBag.com.


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