What is a Doula Part 1

The experts at Naturopathic want to provide you with an in-depth view of what it means to be a doula. In this four-part series we hope to help you gain a better understanding of these specialized caregivers.  Being a doula is a powerful profession. This position requires giving both emotional, spiritual and physical support during the birthing process. How this support is given and why it is such a pivotal role is what we will be discussing throughout this series.pregnant woman sitting in field

Doula vs. Midwife

Many of us hold great passion for the well-being of women and their babies!   It’s an honor and delight to help empower them in their journey of becoming a family.  It’s also big, powerful work.  How and from who we receive our education, will shape what we have to contribute, our effectiveness and even our own experiences.The work of both doulas and midwives share some common ground, and yet they are vastly different roles.  Both doulas and midwives attend to women in childbirth.  They both trust the power of a woman’s body to birth naturally and vaginally, and typically are devoted to supporting the birthing woman in the labor and birth process she desires.  Exactly what they might do, and especially the responsibility that they carry, is very different.

Doulas and Holistic Doulas

The word ‘doula’ is said to be from the Greek, meaning ‘with woman.’   Doulas are professional, sensitive, labor-support persons; they are privately hired by families to be with them during the labor and birth of their babies in a supportive way. The exact nature of how doulas perform their duties depends on:
  • Birthing location – hospital, birth center, or home?
  • Birthing environment – A supportive relaxed birth center or intense high-risk medical center?
  • Birthing circumstances – medicated or drug-free?
  • Birth attendant – An obstetrician or a nurse-midwife?
Overall, well-trained doulas will be capable of being medical advocates, well-informed on the normal process of labor and birth, full of ideas to ease and facilitate the mother/baby’s birth process, uplifting and positive presences for mother and partner, and providing a continuum of care as a labor companion across shift changes.In addition to attending the birth, the range of the doula relationship will generally include at least a few meetings prenatally, to get to know each other and the family’s priorities, and 1-2 meetings as a postpartum doula, to debrief from the birth and answer questions about the baby and recovery.Holistic doulas bring an unparalleled education to their families over other doula programs.  In addition to the fundamental doula information such as positive positions for helping the labor process, Holistic doulas also have an outstanding base education in naturopathic support such as homeopathy, herbology, flower remedies, medical use of essential oils and much more.  People are becoming very interested in natural health, and in doing all they can to naturally have a healthy baby and safe labor.  This leads them to look for a doula familiar with alternatives and healthy options.  As a holistic doula, it is a relief to have a much more extensive range of helpful ideas when our client is experiencing severe pain, or fear, or even when they are throwing up!

Midwives

Midwives are primary healthcare providers, responsible for the health and well-being of the mother and unborn child throughout pregnancy, labor and birth.  She may be a certified nurse midwife (CNM). Usually working in medical settings such as hospitals, CNMs work under the OB/GYN physicians who are in charge of maternity care in those settings.  On the other end of the spectrum, she could be a traditional midwife, who independently attends births in families’ homes.  Both are providing maternity care in the form of monthly prenatal visits in which they check the health, vital signs, and overall well-being of the mother and baby.   Because of their shared, women-centered maternity health perspectives, midwives and doulas often appreciate each other’s work and may be at births together.  Doulas assist mothers in positioning and act as an advocate for their individual birth plans regardless of who their health care provider is. Midwives are actually ‘catching’ or delivering the babies, and are responsible for the health care and safety of the mother/baby unit in labor and birth.

A Naturopathic Approach

At NITE, we have created a doula training program like no other – rich in skill sets that not only make our doulas uniquely well-qualified and prepared, but that also empower them to use their natural health skills in all areas of their personal and professional lives.  The world of birth needs highly aware, broadly skilled women who truly understand what is happening in the world of birth, and how to accompany women in their transformation to motherhood.  Let’s team up to protect, inform and empower mothers and their babies to have safe, satisfying and transformative births!Beth Barbeau, Traditional Midwife and Professional Doula, heads up our birth seminars with over 30 years’ experience in home births, hospital births, and in teaching both parents and professionals.  Her lifetime of naturopathic birth work brings your future doula profession alive with the stories and practical tips that can only come from extensive, real-life experiences.