Story by: David Steen Martin on December 27, 2023
A doula is a trained, nonmedical professional who helps you before, during and shortly after giving birth.
Doulas are not the same as a nurse midwife. They do not deliver babies. Instead, they offer emotional, physical and educational support to you and your family. The goal of a doula is to help you have a safe and empowering birthing experience.
During childbirth, a doula is at your side, a constant presence giving you emotional support to coach and comfort you. A doula serves as your advocate with the medical team and can help you relieve pain through breathing or relaxation techniques and massage. A doula also can offer encouragement and reassurance to your partner.
“The help of a doula can have an enormous impact on the well-being of mother and baby,” said Lyndsey D. Neese, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist, Norton Women’s Care and medical director of quality for women’s services at Norton Healthcare. “Even though doulas are not involved in delivering the baby, their support before, during and after childbirth can have a big impact on the mom’s experience and the baby’s health.”
If you receive pregnancy care at Norton OB/GYN Associates or Norton Women’s Specialists, you qualify for a doula at no charge through the Norton Women’s Doula Program, thanks to support from the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.
If you are receiving pregnancy care from a provider at Norton OB/GYN Associates or Norton Women’s Specialists, you qualify for a doula at no charge through Norton Women’s Doula Program, thanks to support from the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.
As part of the program, a doula will make several home visits throughout your pregnancy. With Norton Women’s Doula Program, doulas are able to assist you in a wide range of areas, including access to healthy food, transportation to and from provider visits, housing and legal issues. After delivery, the doula can teach about bonding with your baby, breastfeeding and milk production.
The best time to start with a doula is early in your pregnancy to get the most benefits, but it’s never too late to have help from a doula. Doula services typically end at the six-week postpartum checkup.
Having a doula can shorten labor time, reduce the need for a cesarean section and make the birth experience more positive, and may also contribute to having a healthier baby. One study found that women who have a doula are four times less likely to have low birth weight babies and two times less likely to have complications during childbirth that affect either their health or the baby’s.
The positive impacts of having a doula present have been found to be greater in women who are having their first child, or are socially disadvantaged, low-income, unmarried, giving birth without a companion, or facing language or cultural barriers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are two to three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white mothers.
“We know Black women can experience barriers to accessing and receiving quality care,” Dr. Neese said. “We’re hopeful the doula program will help address these disparities.”
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