Does the idea of supporting a woman during labor, delivery, and her postpartum period sound interesting? Think you have to be an obstetrician or labor and delivery nurse to do this? If so, think again. Many women are becoming doulas to serve this purpose. A doula is a woman who acts as emotional and physical support for a woman just about to give birth. Doulas have actually been around for ages but have come into vogue in the U.S. over the last twenty years or so. Doulas provide nonmedical support to the woman. As the doctors and nurses attend to all medical aspects of labor and delivery, a doula focuses purely on the woman herself. A doula will place cool cloths on the laboring woman's forehead, get her ice chips, rub her back, and help make her comfortable throughout labor. The doula is present when the baby is delivered and helps take care of the mom and baby immediately after delivery. She will help the new mother nurse her baby for the first time, apply ice packs (if needed) to the woman's perineum, and give food and drink as needed. Doulas play an important role in the health care field.

There is no special training required for doulas per se, but there is a national doula organization (DONA International) that offers conferences where doulas can interact and receive special certificates and nonmedical training in different areas of labor and delivery. Doula organizations cite research examples that support having a doula present during labor and delivery, some of which include: lower Cesarean section rate, improved pain coping skills, and better breastfeeding success. They also report lessening stress on fathers/husbands. The cost of having a doula present ranges from $300 to $1,000 depending on where you live and whether the doula is certified. Living near a large, metropolitan area and hiring a certified doula will cost more.

Medical Field Journals

Doulas also help the medical staff. Having a calmer patient who is in good control of her pain experience helps doctors and nurses because they can better communicate with the patient. Doulas also assume some of the responsibility for hands-on care that nurses may be unable to provide at times due to heavy patient load and charting/progress notes duties.

Becoming a doula is a promising alternative for someone who wants to work with laboring women in a nonmedical capacity.

Last Updated: 05/21/2014

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