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Doulas: Serving new mothers during birth and after

POSTED April 26, 2011 10:10 p.m.

A new presence in some delivery rooms is the doula, a position that is filling a niche as the mother’s advocate.

According to Doula of North America International, a doula is a “trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and information support to the mother before, during and just after birth.” The term “doula” is derived from a Greek word meaning “to serve.”

Prior to the birth, the doula will help the expectant mother create a birth plan and help them in gathering all the information they may need.

A doula’s job during the labor and delivery process is essentially to mother the mother. This can include everything from offering praise and reassurance, providing physical comfort, and explaining what is happening during the birthing process.

Doulas do not provide medical services or interventions.

A key aspect of the doula’s service is maintaining an uninterrupted presence during labor and delivery, which differs from a nurse or midwife, who also have medical concerns to take care of for the mother.

After the birth of a child, the doula can assist with car of the newborn and offer support and expertise.

Julie Beth Lamb, of Escalon, has been a certified doula for three years. But her passion for assisting women through the birthing process has been a part of her life for decades.

“I’ve been attending friends’ births for over 20 years,” Lamb said. “Then I found out there was a name for that. That’s when I got certified as a doula.”

During her doula training, Lamb learned a lot of biology — why and how things work — as well as tips on how to help laboring women with pain management.

While Lamb has attended many home births, she recently has been helping with hospital birthing plans. She said many women seek out her services for a second or subsequent birth.

“They don’t like how medicalized their first birth was,” she said. “To those who want a more natural birth, it’s hard in this more medical age.”

Her role during the birthing process can vary. Some women call who will be alone during birth and need a coach. Others call who just want help making sure their birthplan is carried out in the hospital.

“Some husbands are really hands on and I am just running around covering things he can’t,” Lamb said. “Some are overwhelmed and just want to hold their wife’s hand.

In Lamb’s opinion, husbands today are asked to do a lot. She related a story her doula instructor told her: Expecting a husband to know what to do during labor and birth is like asking a man to coach a football team without ever having played the sport.

“I think the most important thing is to have an advocate with some training,” she said.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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