Childbirth is more than a medical event; it is a transformative life experience. In the past, female relatives or friends would assist new mothers during and after delivery. Modern healthcare practices, cultural shifts, and geographic distance leave many families without this important support. Doulas are nonmedical birth coaches that fill this void for new parents and families. Growing evidence confirms that parents who use doulas have less pain, shorter labor, and more fulfilling birthing experiences. Research also indicates that doula support benefits families adjusting to a newborn.
The word doula means “female slave” or “woman’s servant” in Greek. The term was reintroduced in the 1970s when medical anthropology referred to breastfeeding support from outside the nursing mother’s family. In the early 1990s, doulas became more involved in supporting women in labor, delivery, and postpartum periods thanks to the publication of Mothering the Mother.
Women who do not have family or friends to support them during labor may desire the services of an experienced doula. There are two types of doulas: birth doulas that support a woman and her partner in the labor and birth processes, and postpartum doulas that advise and help a mother and her family with adjusting to life with a new baby.
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