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Doulas: An Age-Old Tradition Returns

The birth of your baby will soon top the list of most important days in your life.

Its important to make sure you have the right support for such an important event. Years ago, many extended families lived together or near each other in the same neighbourhood. Today, many modern families are spread across the province, the country, and even the world.

Traditionally, communities came together to give support to a family expecting a baby. With todays busy lives, this is less and less the case. An age-old tradition of support is now re-emerging to meet the needs of todays families: the re-emergence of doulas.

What is a Doula?

The word doula means womans servant in Greek. A doula is a woman who is experienced in helping women through childbirth, and in caring for new mothers and their newborn babies. A doula provides emotional, physical and educational support to the mother and her family before, during and after childbirth.

There are three types of doulas: birth doulas, antepartum doulas and postpartum doulas.

Birth Doulas

A birth doula compliments the clinical care provided by labour delivery nurses, obstetricians and midwives, by becoming the final touch to the team. She recognizes that birth is a key life experience, and understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour.

A birth doula provides continuous support and helps the family prepare and carry out their plans for the birth. She provides emotional support, comfort measures, and educational information and support to help in decision-making.

A doula does not take the position of the womans partner; she enhances that role by helping the partner to participate at their own comfort level.

Studies have shown enhanced obstetrical outcomes when there is a doula present at birth: a reduction of cesarean sections, the use of pain medication, the use of forceps, the use of oxytocin, and increases in breastfeeding success and overall birth satisfaction.

A doula provides non-judgmental support for the birth of your choice, whether it is in a hospital or at home, medicated or non-medicated.

Take the time to find the right birth doula for you. The cost of a birth doula can range from $100 to $1,200, depending on location, the assistance the doula will provide and her experience.

The cost usually includes 24-hour telephone support, two to three prenatal visits, presence at the birth itself (whether labour lasts five hours or 36), and one or two postpartum visits to help with breastfeeding.

Postpartum Doulas

A postpartum doula is experienced in caring for mothers and newborns. She nurtures the new family by providing support and reassurance to the new parents. She also provides breastfeeding support, basic newborn care, and does light housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry, sibling care, and shopping.

She is there to mother the mother, such as by filling in so the mother can get a few hours of rest, or by providing a relaxing massage and comforting words of support.

Postpartum doulas can provide night support as well, letting the whole family get some rest at night. Then, they can wake up well-rested and ready to enjoy their new child in a clean, organized house.

Postpartum doulas increase chances of breastfeeding success, help decrease chances of postpartum depression, and can connect you with community resources.

The cost for the services of a postpartum doula depends on your location and her experience; it can range from $15 to $30 per hour.

The demand for postpartum doulas has increased dramatically over the last few years, so start early to find the right postpartum doula for you.

Antepartum Doulas

An antepartum doula is fully trained to help women and their families who face high-risk pregnancies. She provides information, and physical, practical, and emotional support.

Similar to the postpartum doula, an antepartum doula helps the expectant mother take care of practical tasks in the home.

She also teaches the art of relaxation especially important to pregnant women on bedrest and helps the mother deal with the issues she is facing.

An antepartum doula provides consistent emotional support for the pregnant mother and practical physical care. She is also trained to provide support to families with a baby (or babies) who must stay for a time in the hospitals newborn intensive care unit. This is a critical form of support for the family of a premature baby.

How to Find a Doula

You can find out more about doulas and how to contact one in your area through the following organizations:

CAPPA www.cappacanada.ca 1-866-236-2478 or 613-968-4085
DONA www.dona.org
Birth Solutions www.birthsolutions.info 1-888-619-9945

a man carrying two children

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