Doulas provide ongoing emotional and physical support to families expecting babies. Doulas are part of the maternal health care team. Doulas do not provide medical treatment.
Doula support can extend through the entire reproductive cycle from puberty through menopause. Although, much of doula work is focused around pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum a doula’s supportive and nurturing skills can assist families with infertility, adoption, abortion, stillbirth, and a range of other life events. Many teenagers in the throes of their sexual development can use doula support, a nonjudgmental neutral individual to provide guidance and understanding through that transitive phase.
Doulas can implore a range of techniques and skills to assist those they serve, but often just being a nonjudgmental and supportive presence is enough.
The doula is a witness to a life event.
The doula is an advocate.
The doula offers wisdom and knowledge.
The doula helps individuals navigate stress, challenges, and unexperienced situations like childbirth.
All individuals may seek to become doulas. It not limited by race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other such designations. It is not required that a doula have experienced the circumstance in which they are providing support, in order to be effective. For example, although a doula may have never given birth, they can still offer emotional and physical comfort to women in labor.
Benefits of Doula care
Improves birth outcomes
Reduces fear and anxiety
Reduces need for medication during labor
Reduces needs for medical interventions in labor
Reduces cesarean births
Increases breastfeeding proficiency
Increases women’s feelings of empowerment and satisfaction
Decreases birth trauma
Limitations of Doula care
Doulas are limited to professional and respectful conduct.
Doulas must maintain privacy and confidentiality.
Doula care is limited to that which is not medical and not clinical.
No medical exams or procedures are conducted by doulas.
Doulas cannot give a medical diagnosis.
Doulas cannot prescribe medical treatment.
Doulas cannot assist with medical care.
Doulas cannot speak on behalf of those they serve.
Doulas cannot make medical decisions for those they serve.
Doulas cannot give medical opinions or medical advice.
Doulas trained, licensed, or certified in other capacities cannot conflict those qualifications and/or skills with the limitations of doula care.
Certification and Training
Those seeking certification as doulas should complete a training course which includes the following core topics:
History of doula profession
The labor and childbirth process
Labor support techniques
Medications and Interventions
Evidence-based maternity care
Business and Marketing
Certification should be awarded to candidates demonstrating proficiency in their knowledge and skills to support families expecting babies. These can be verified by a mentor’s evaluation, client feedback, completion of a practicum or internship program.
Ongoing learning should continue for professional doulas through a range of modalities and be verified to maintain certification.
Individuals serving as doulas should maintain professional behavior. Unprofessional conduct could affect a doula’s reputation, weaken the ability to attract clients, stunt the doula’s practice, or have a negative impact upon employment.
- Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes
- How Birth Doulas Help Clients Adapt to Changes in Circumstances, Clinical Care, and Client Preferences During Labor
- Multisite implementation of trained volunteer doula support for disadvantaged childbearing women: a mixed-methods evaluation
- The Evidence for Doulas