Labor is a challenging, arduous, stressful experience. Having a labor expert to serve as your companion can relieve the stress. In other words, a doula.
What is a doula, and what do they do?
Doula is a Greek word meaning “a woman who serves”. Doulas provide emotional and physical support for pregnant women before, during, and after labor. While doulas are not licensed nurses, they are trained professionals. Doula training varies, but typically a Doula needs to attend 24 hours of childbirth education, one breastfeeding class, two childbirth classes, and attend two births. They must write an essay, pass an exam, and complete training in HIPAA confidentiality and cultural competency.
Proponents of doulas say that doulas decrease the risk of a C-section, decrease labor stress, and reduces other risks of injury. Doula advocates say that doulas speed up labor and “mother the mother.” A Doula might provide verbal or physical support: massages and words of encouragement. They help a mother with breathing, bring water and towels, and or provide reassurance. Doulas explain to the mom what’s going on during labor and will advocate to doctors and nurses if need be. Before leaving the mother, Doulas assist in starting breastfeeding their child.
It’s recommended to make an appointment with a Doula earlier in pregnancy to build a deeper relationship and increase comfort before the ‘big day’. Doulas provide support to the partner, parents, friends, or other companions of the laboring mother.
Doulas in New York City
In many cases, Doulas are not covered by insurance. However, The Doula Project provides free or sliding-scale Doulas in NYC. Other NYC organizations include NYC Doula Collective , Ancient Song Doula Services, Birth Focus NYC and Baby Caravan. Certain Zip codes in Brooklyn quality for By My Side Birth Support, a program that offers free doula services to families on Medicaid. North Manhattan Perinatal Partnership is a Harlem-based organization that helps connect women with doulas to combat infant mortality. There’s a New York State Doula Pilot Program. Currently, the pilot program has Medicaid covering Doulas in Erie County and King’s County.
Doulas in the United States and Beyond
No matter where you are in the US, you can find a Doula using DONA’s Find A Doula tool. There’s also a state-by-state directory by the National Black Doulas Association. Birthing From Within has a directory of Doulas in most states, many parts of Canada, and many other counties.
Our next post will talk about Midwives, another important role in your birth team.