If you have not heard the term Doula yet, you are bound to soon. Doulas are sprouting up all over the country and many mothers refer to them as the women who have made their birthing experience a ‘dreamy’ one. What is a Doula, anyway? A Doula is a trained birth coach -- a surrogate mother figure (without the baggage) who accompanies the couple throughout the entire labor and delivery process. They offer what Doula Giuditta Tornetta calls a girlfriend’s PIE: unconditional physical, informational and emotional support.

Physical comfort procedures used during labor can include massage, counter-pressure, gentle touch, and literally supporting the laboring woman's body weight during a strong contraction. Positioning and frequent position changes are proving to be helpful in labor progress. Doulas often help mothers to squat or to assume other positions that require strong physical support.
Informational support is also essential when the labor goes from the comfort of the home to the hospital. Often, as soon as the mother arrives at the hospital and is given a hospital gown, a transformation takes place. The mother goes from a natural birthing mother to a frightened ‘patient.’ Medical providers intervene with strange machines and equipment, offering technological assistance that is somewhat confusing and frightening to the mother-to-be and her partner. A Doula, with her knowledge of the natural physiology of labor and delivery, can explain suggested medical procedures and interventions and help provide the clarity expectant parents need when faced with medical decisions.

Emotional comfort is imperative if the mother is to feel safe and secure in the birthing environment. A Doula's unique role is to encourage the mother-to-be's self-confidence, protect the sacredness of the process, and help her relax and focus on the natural rhythm and progress of her labor.

“My mission, as a Doula, is to help women remember their innate ability to give birth naturally, in a relaxed and meditative state.” Giuditta is a local Doula and the author of the soon-to-be-published book Joy In Birthing: Daily Devotions for a Natural and Painless Childbirth. She has given birth to both her children at home, painlessly, with the help of a Midwife.

She describes what she does as an “exceptional and gratifying” profession. “Pregnancy is a rite of passage for all women. It has become a medical event only in the last 100 years.” She continues, “We are certainly grateful to the doctors, for their very intervention has helped save many women and children that would have otherwise died in the birthing process. Yet, today a normal labor and delivery is routinely treated as thought it were a sickness. In modern life the concepts that labor and natural birth are sacred rituals have been forgotten, but we can remember and embrace the miracle of the process.”

To become a Doula, academic study combined with practical experience is required. “We study the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy from conception to birth, attend childbirth classes such as Bradley or Lamaze and must attend several births, obtaining evaluations from the doctors, nurse-midwives and clients, before we get our certification. Some of us have additional specialties that add to the benefit of hiring a Doula”. Giuditta is a Certified Doula, a Certified Lactation Educator (from UCLA) and a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. She has produced a self-hypnosis CD entitled “Anesthesia,” which is meant to help the mother prepare herself for a relaxed and painless childbirth, when listen to every day for a minimum of thirty days before delivery. “Many Doulas are multitalented and help the mother do more than just birth her baby. After the birth, I often help for a couple of weeks with breastfeeding, general baby care, and I am available to answer the many questions that arise each day. To tell you the truth, it is hard to let go of that beautiful baby once I have witnessed its birth.”

When interviewing a Doula, parents should consider their anticipated needs and desires with regard to their specific birth plan. Doulas can be found through various on-line organizations such as DONA.org (Doulas Of North America), Dascdoulas.org (Doulas Of Southern California). You can find a Doula through advertising in several local magazines, or you can get a referral from your health care provider. Ask the Doula for references and meet with her personally after an initial phone conversation. Look for clues that will tell you about her personality and attitudes to ascertain if your beliefs are compatible. Look for signs of a warm heart and strong, sure capable hands. Most Doulas have them!

Author's Bio: 

Giuditta Tornetta is a Doula, a Lactation Educator, Hypnotherapist and author of the upcoming book Joy In Birthing: Daily Inspirations for a Natural and Painless Childbirth. She has a private practice in Los Angeles and can be reached through her website at www.JoyInBirthing.com