Motherhood is one of those universal cornerstones of societies big and small. Pregnancy can bring a variety of trans-formative and life-altering experiences that shape mothers from all different cultures and backgrounds. The rites of motherhood can vary in different places, but expectant mothers throughout the world all share a desire for help and communal support.
While the majority of women find comfort within their networks and known doctors, others choose to find support within those who study and become experts in this field. For these people, their search extends to alternative services. Some cultures have a name for these professionals. Depending on where you go, they are called midwives or nurses, and they are widely known as essential figures in the child birthing process. A lesser-known figure in this world is a doula, and they are growing in popularity and influence in the western world of motherhood.
What Does A Doula Do?
A doula is a birth companion or birth coach. This person can facilitate expectant and postpartum mothers in all stages of the birthing and rearing process. The specific roles of the doula are customized and agreed upon between the involved parties, but generally, doula services start in pregnancy and extend through breastfeeding years. It is not uncommon for doulas to also provide educational services along with supporting the mother.
Doulas often inform families of particular practices or needs to make newborn life easy for both mother and child. These services are excellent for new families that desire a more hands-on approach to learning and aren’t necessarily as comfortable with caring for babies.
For mothers looking for more specialized experiences, there are doulas who have expertise in individual development areas of pregnancy and child rearing. There are also doulas who specialize in supporting mothers with potentially threatening conditions such as PCOS or Endometriosis. The role of the doula is to act as support in all areas of mothering to ensure the best possible experience for both mother and baby.
Obtaining a doula is also beneficial to those mothers who desire to set and meet goals for their pregnancy and birthing experiences. Society has evolved, research and as accessibility to the internet has allowed expectant mothers to discover alternative ways of birthing compared to traditional healthcare practices.
Some mothers desire a medicine-free birth entirely with abstinence from epidurals. If a mother has a goal for her birthing experience, the best way to ensure her plan is adhered to is enlisting a doula. Doulas can act in your best interest, and keep you grounded in your desires for the most beneficial experience.
Doulas are considered a luxury. Because the specific term and idea of a “doula” derived in the western world, it is often associated with a particular aesthetic of healthy living and culturally aware privileged women who can afford such an amenity. What society does not realize is in black communities these types of support systems were not only readily available but expected and low cost for most of history.
As western medicine began to take over, many cultures that adopted it lost its connection to traditional methods of childbirth. Now that western medicine has started to look to homeopathic and eastern modes of healing, they draw on traditions of communities of color to find more beneficial ways to ease the effort of childbirth. This point is important to note because black women die and experience complications from childbirth at much higher rates than other communities.
This happens because of inequalities in healthcare related to the black women, as well as lack of access to healthcare services. As said before, doulas are viewed as luxuries in the western world. However, with the high rate of mortality among black mothers, doulas could serve as the positive boost needed to ensure healthy mothers and babies across races.
Doula Vs Midwife, What’s The Difference?
While Doulas may seem similar to midwives, there are key things that differentiate the two when it comes to the birthing process. The first is their educations and accreditations. Midwives are not OB-GYNs, but they are healthcare practitioners. They must obtain formal training resulting in their certification which grants them the opportunity to work alongside or in place of an OB-GYN. Midwives can work within hospitals, birthing centers, or even at home depending on the needs and preferences of the mother.
For even higher level certification, mothers can opt for nurse-midwives, who also have the education and certification to be a nurse as well as practicing midwifery. A doula does not require the same education or certification, but many come with credentials or levels of work experience. Doulas are not meant to replace healthcare professionals and work best in conjunction with a midwife or an OB-GYN. Doulas provide extra services that an OB-GYN may not be able to.
They also offer more personalized support to aid the midwife in caring for mothers. For mothers looking for personalized plans within traditional healthcare environments, doulas can be beneficial in partnership with OB-GYNs to provide a more integrative approach to the experience.