Many families today choose to include a doula in their birth plans. There are a few different kinds of doulas who specialize in various aspects of the perinatal season. Your doula becomes a member of your care team who helps to maintain a respectful and thoughtful environment for you to experience birth, including labor, and including meeting your baby.

In very practical terms, your doula generally offers uninterrupted physical and emotional support to you, an affirming presence for your spouse; your doula serves to remind you, step by step, the options you may have, as they pertain to birth, to bereavement, or both, and helping ensure that your birth experience is held with respect, love and honor.

* Birth Doulas are arguably the most common, and are available to be present with you throughout your labor and birth.

* Antenatal Doulas are able to support you well before birth, through the pregnancy and all the challenges, physically or emotionally, that it may bring.

* Postpartum Doulas provide in home support after birth, and can include some lactation guidance as well as practical support including performing light household chores.

There is a growing awareness of the bereavement needs of the perinatal family, and any of the above doulas may be knowledgeable and compassionate support persons for mothers facing any outcome in pregnancy. Similarly, there are also organizations set apart for the training and equipping of perinatal healthcare professionals who have advanced skills and a demonstrated ability of providing compassionate support to families facing both birth and bereavement.

These doulas may call themselves by any of the following or similar titles:

* Perinatal hospice advocate

* Bereavement doula

* Miscarriage or stillbirth doula

* Loss Doula®

* Birth & Bereavement Doula®

Whether suggested by your hospital staff or a loved one, you have the final say in selecting a doula to best fit your needs.

Your doula should have a demonstrated proficiency in:

* Translating medical language discussed prior to or during labor into compassionate and easy-to-understand language.

* Maintaining a non-biased compassionate and dedicated service to you, throughout your birth options and journey.

* Offering appropriate and applicable non-medical options to you, which may either replace or supplement medical support.

* Working as a paraprofessional and a responsible member of your care team.

* Filling in any gaps of care and smoothing overlaps in care.


Thank you to contributing author Heidi Faith.