What is a Doula?
A doula is a non-medical birth professional that provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to birthing families prenatally, during labor, and following birth. Doulas view birth as a normal physiological process, and are knowledgeable in non-medical methods of pain relief; using massage, touch, verbal encouragement, and position changes to help women cope with labor. Doulas recognize that birth is an experience a woman will remember all her life, and her primary responsibility during labor is a woman’s emotional and physical well-being.
Numerous studies have found that continuous support from a doula during labor shortens the length of labor, lowers the rate of caesarians and decreases other interventions and complications. Doulas also increase infant health and well-being, rates of breastfeeding, and parents’ overall satisfaction with the birth experience.
There are two types of doulas: birth and postpartum doulas. Birth doulas assist you in preparing for your labor and birth and provide continuous support during labor and several postpartum visits. Postpartum doulas assist you following the birth of your baby, providing help with breastfeeding, household tasks, self-care, infant care and normal behavior, and support adjusting to life with your new baby.
If you choose to receive support from a doula for the birth of your baby, your doula will meet with you several times prior to the birth. During these meetings your doula will become familiar with any birth planning you have done, and preferences you have regarding your labor and birth. These meetings will also allow for discussions about your ways of coping with pain and fatigue and how you are preparing for life with an infant.
During labor your doula will provide continuous physical and emotional support as well as an objective viewpoint— assisting you in getting the information you need to make informed decisions. Doulas work with you and your support team to help you have a safe and satisfying birth experience—however and wherever you choose to give birth. A doula is present for your benefit, not the benefit of your caregiver or birthing facility.
Immediately after birth your doula will remain with you until you are comfortable and your family is ready for quiet time together. She can also help with initiating breastfeeding, if desired. If you feel you will need extended support postpartum it is a good idea to discuss this with your doula before your birth.
A doula does not:
- Perform clinical tasks such as blood pressure, fetal heart checks, and vaginal exams. She is there to provide physical comfort, emotional support, and advocacy.
- Make decisions for you. A doula helps you to get necessary information to make an informed decision. She will also remind you if you stray from your birth plan.
- Replace any other support people you may have. A doula works with the partner to support you.
Dads and Doulas:
Fathers who plan to be their partner’s primary support person during labor often wonder why they would need a doula in addition to the support they plan to provide. Doulas work with families prenatally to determine the level of involvement that a partner desires, and helps to facilitate that support during labor. During labor it can sometimes be difficult for fathers to see the mother of their baby struggling with the pains of labor; doulas can provide reassurance that what she is experiencing is normal, and provide suggestions for how he can best provide support. Studies of partners’ involvement during labor have found that fathers tend to be even more involved and hands on when they receive suggestions, guidance and encouragement from a doula.
Postpartum doulas assist you following the birth of your baby, providing help with breastfeeding, self-care, infant care and normal behavior, household tasks, and support adjusting to life with your new baby. Postpartum assistance can be especially crucial for women without much family support, or with a partner who travels or works out of town. Doula support can also provide help with older siblings, giving you time and space to bond with your new baby, and helping your older child to adjust to their new role.
The Strength in Families Program:
In partnership with the Alaska Children’s Trust, and other generous funders, the Juneau Family Health and Birth center offers free doula support to young families, or families who need extra assistance. Doula support is available regardless of who your care provider is and where you plan to give birth, we provide free doula support to SEARHC, Valley Medical, home birth and Birth Center clients. We are happy to talk to you and determine if you would qualify for the program.
If you qualify for free doula support from a Strength in Families (SIF) doula, your doula will meet with you to identify stressors in your life, provide guidance in terms of nutrition and birth options, provide referrals and connections to local social service agencies, as well as other support which will enable you to be the best parent possible when you welcome your new baby. SIF doulas are experienced at working with teen parents, families with social risk factors, or parents who are choosing to place their baby with an adoptive family. SIF is a voluntary, support-based program. As a SIF client, you are welcome to participate at any level that feels comfortable and appropriate for you and your family.
Costs of Doula Support:
If you receive Denali Kid Care/Medicaid or if you are referred by your care provider to the Strength in Families Program at the Juneau Family Health and Birth Center, you qualify for free doula support. If you do not qualify for free support, doulas in Juneau typically range in cost from $400-900 dollars, which includes prenatal visits, continuous labor support and postpartum visits. Many doulas work on a sliding scale, or are willing to make other financial arrangements, if cost is an issue. Please feel free to contact us to see if you qualify for free labor support. Do not let cost deter you from finding out if having a doula would be right for you!
The Community Doula Network:
The Community Doula Network is a group of professionally trained doulas who work together to increase awareness of and access to professional labor support in and around Juneau, Alaska. Their mission is to support women and their families with evidence-based information, education, physical and emotional support during pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood. Please see the Community Doula Network’s site, for available doulas: www.juneaudoulas.org.
Meet Our Doulas
- Shayna Rohwer
- Mikaela Levy
- The Juneau Community Doula Network
Contact a Doula
Contact us for more information or to
set up a free consultation appointment.
Call 586.1203 or email email@example.com.