Types of Doulas
A doula’s purpose is to help mothers and families prepare for, deliver, and take care of a new baby. In that process, there are several types of doulas, each with a different specialization in the world of birth. Many doulas specialize in more than one of these services, and seek to help families through the nine months of pregnancy and beyond.
Birth (Labor) Doula
This is the most common type of doula. This doula’s job is to support a mother and family through the beautiful process of labor and birth of a new baby. This support will include mental and emotional encouragement, teaching valuable information about the process of birth, massage and physical support during labor, coaching through breathing techniques and labor positions, bringing water and food when needed, and any other non-medical aid to the laboring mother and her partner. Usually, Birth doulas will also include in their services 1 or 2 visits prior to the birth to get to know the family, and 1 or 2 follow-up visits afterward to help with breastfeeding and make sure things are going well.
Antepartum Doulas most often serve pregnant women who have been placed on bed-rest or who are in a high-risk or high-stress pregnancy situation. Teenage, unexpected, or high risk pregnancies and complications can be extremely overwhelming to a new mother. Antepartum doulas can be that listening ear, and are able to provide tremendous emotional support. They can also provide contacts and resources for classes and support groups, and answer questions and concerns with tenderness and understanding. They will often also help with light housework or cooking for a mother who needs help or needs to take it easy.
Postpartum (Postnatal) Doula
A Postpartum Doula can be a life-saver in the high stress, no-sleep days and weeks following the birth of a new baby. These doulas will help with light housework, cooking and cleaning, often on an hourly basis for however long they are needed. They also provide vital coaching for new moms learning how to breastfeed a baby, get them to sleep*, or calm that baby who’s been crying for 3 hours straight. They, like all doulas, are valuable sources of information, emotional support, and understanding aid in the beautiful but overwhelming process of birth.
*Sleep Doulas One specific service of postpartum doulas is serving as a “sleep doula.” This type of doula specifically helps new moms and dads get their babies on a workable sleeping schedule, and helps sort out common sleep problems for newborns.
Adoption and Foster doulas have an incredibly unique role to play in the building of a new family through adoption. These doulas will often build a relationship with both the birth mother and the adopting or fostering family. They can assist the birth mother with education and adoption resources prior to birth, coach her through labor as a birth doula, and help her navigate the separation after birth and maintain a support network. The doula can then help the adopting/fostering family prepare ahead of time and process through the journey of receiving and bonding with the new baby.
The miracle of new birth is a life-changing and heart-molding event, and being a doula means living and breathing the depth and beauty of birth and parenting. So many people, though, have experienced the deeply pain of a miscarried or lost baby. Miscarriage and loss doulas are often women who have experienced this pain themselves, and make themselves available to provide emotional, physical, and informational support to women and families processing these losses. They, like other doulas, have specialized knowledge and contacts for support, and can also provide light housekeeping and cooking aid to help the family through the healing process.