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Tips for New Moms: What is a “Doula”?

Doula is a greek word meaning ‘woman caregiver.’ Today the word has come to mean an experienced labor companion who provides the mother-to-be and her birth partner continuous emotional and physical support during labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period. Postpartum doulas specialize in helping families after the baby is born, easing the transition to parenthood.

Birth Doula
A doula is a part of a woman’s labor support team along with her partner, nurse, midwife/OB-GYN, and anyone else present at the birth. Certified doulas complete training in the anatomy of pregnancy and childbirth, comfort measures for labor, and understanding routine medical interventions. During labor and delivery, a birth doula may provide:

– Emotional support
– Advocacy-information about medical options while acting as a liaison with medical staff, family, or friends
– Massage
- Relaxation exercises
– Breathing techniques
– Visualizations
- Assistance with labor positions
- Picture taking/videotaping, if desired

During the postpartum period, birth doulas often conduct home visits to discuss the birth as well as offer information about infant care, postpartum care for the new mother, and breastfeeding support.

Postpartum Doula
Postpartum doulas offer families support after the birth of a baby to allow parents to focus their time and energy on the new baby. Postpartum doulas may provide:

– Care for baby
– Care for mom
– Light housework
– Running errands
– Cooking
– Help with breastfeeding
– Referrals for other services, as needed

Note:  When interviewing a doula, make sure to ask what services are provided as doulas offer varying levels of support.

Finding a Doula
Rhode Island is home to a number of caring birth and postpartum doulas. Many doula referrals are made by word of mouth–ask your friends with babies, your prenatal care providers, and others who work with pregnant women. The Internet is another great resource. Below is a list of websites that have doula directories:

Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators (ALACE)
- BirthPartners.com
- Doulas of North America (DONA)
Doulas of Rhode Island

Kristen Kardos, MA Ed., and Kathy McGuigan, MSW, the co-founders of RI New Moms Connection, provide affordable, accessible pregnancy and new mom groups throughout Rhode Island. In “Tips for New Moms” they share their knowledge, resources, and helpful ideas for moms just beginning their journey into parenthood or moms who may need a little refresher.

Editor’s Note: Although “Tips for New Moms” is written with the new mom in mind–to support women in their journey through motherhood–it is certainly not the authors’ intention to exclude dads. Every new parent will find their tips, resources, and insights helpful. I invite all moms and dads to share ideas on how they manage their new role as a parent with Kidoinfo in the comments below.

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