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Every expectant woman could use a helping hand and calming voice throughout her pregnancy and a doula is the original cheerleader for moms to be. If you aren’t familiar with doulas or are considering having one be a part of your pregnancy journey, here is a little about doulas and the services they provide.

The practice of doulas goes back centuries and the word “doula” actually has Greek roots, meaning “women’s servant” or “a woman who serves.” The purpose of a doula is to provide information and assistance as well as counseling for a woman throughout the course of her pregnancy and during the early days of motherhood. They can be a great source of comfort and reassurance for those unavoidable nerves while also being available to answer questions as they pop up maybe more quickly than a physician with a busy schedule of several patients.

Typically beginning halfway or three months before the due date, a doula can help the mother mentally, emotionally and physically prepare for the transition to motherhood, if it’s her first child, or for the expansion of her family. They can also assist in creating a birth plan to be carried out once the woman goes into labor. If you’re unsure about which birthing methods you would like to go with or where you would like to give birth, a doula can provide all the facts to help you make an informed decision on your own time, but well in advance to avoid any additional stress leading up to the due date. An antepartum doula is another option — that’s a doula brought in to assist a woman with a high risk pregnancy who may be on bed rest for a good portion of her pregnancy.

Once labor begins, a doula is there to be the voice for the mother and her partner as needed to keep the environment as calm as possible. Letting the doula be the go between allows the couple to relish in the moment — she utilizes the birth plan prepared by the mother and her partner and makes sure all conditions are adhered to. She also provides emotional support for the mother to keep anxiety at bay which can impact the birth. Doulas come prepared with a multitude of ways to make a woman in labor more comfortable so the birthing process is more pleasant, such as massage and well as relaxation exercises. Best of all, she’s there to celebrate you and cheer you on so you never lose sight of how amazing the day is.

After the baby arrives, that doesn’t mean your time with the doula is done if you don’t want it to be. She can guide you through recovery with tips and advice for healing as well as feeding your little one. In some cases, doulas may help out more in the home at this point, such as preparing meals, to give new parents one less thing to think about. For women who experience postpartum depression, a doula can provide further mental and emotional support. You can also opt to only bring in a doula after your baby is born, known as a postpartum doula.

Finding a certified doula is sort of like hiring a personal assistant for your pregnancy. Obviously there is a cost involved and you will need to consider whether your budget can stretch to this. However, a doula is a wonderful resource to make the transition as smooth as it can be and you know you always have someone in your corner. This boost of confidence is exactly what a new parent needs. If you’re interested in bringing in a doula for your pregnancy, be sure to interview them to make sure they understand your needs and beliefs and be sure to check their credentials — doulas aren’t doctors, so they won’t take the place of your healthcare provider. You might want to speak to other women who have used a doula. Most will tell you to do it if you can possibly afford it. Bringing in a doula is a major stress reliever and who doesn’t want that?

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