5 Types of Doulas
5 Types of Doulas
I recently saw an advertisement for a new kind of doula training; death doula training. I am sure that being a death doula is a wonderful thing, and who wouldn't want extra support when going through THE ultimate life transition? However, being a professional birth doula, my second though was about how using the term "doula" in yet another context would affect public understanding (and misunderstanding) of what I do. A large part of my job is raising awareness about birth doulas and clearing up misconceptions, one expecting person and couple at a time.
So here's a list of 5 types of doulas and descriptions of each one:
- Birth Doulas- Also commonly called labor doulas, they are people who are trained to provide continuous support to expectant couples during labor and birth, in the form of emotional, physical and informational support throughout the process. Emotional support during labor often consists of reassurance and encouragement for both the laboring person and their partner, help maintaining a positive attitude, keeping the couple company when care providers aren't around, and always caring about how the couple is feeling. Physical support can be help with implementing hands-on comfort measures like massage, counterpressure, or hot and cold compresses, also giving the partner breaks for food, restroom, and sleep if appropriate, and assisting them both in staying nourished and hydrated. Informational support is often providing resources for specific topics and needs, encouragement in making informed decisions, and explaining common medical procedures. There have been numerous studies on the efficacy of professional labor support and the evidence supports the use of doulas as there are consistent positive effects for moms, babies and families, and no know risks or side effects. My favorite source for evidence based information regarding labor and birth is evidencebasedbirth.com and a one-page printable handout about doulas can be found here: evidencebasedbirth.com/doulas
- Postpartm Doulas- Helpers trained in the care of the motherbaby dyad in the months after birth, they provide evidence-based information on infant feeding, soothing, and sleeping, as well as recovery tips and care for the new mom. They can also assist with light housecleaning and meal preparation or with caring for older siblings. In short, they can do almost anything to help the whole family transition into having a new baby around, whether it's the first or the fifth! Here's a great list of questions to ask when looking to hire a postpartum doula: www.babycenter.com/0_how-a-postpartum-doula-can-help
- Pregnancy and Infant Loss Doulas- Also called bereavement doulas, their specific role is somewhat self explainatory, and certainly can fall under the category of 'let's not even go there'. But the fact is that pregnancy loss is very common, affecting up to 1 in 3 women at least once by some estimates. And for anyone who's ever been through the experience, sometimes all you want is to talk about it with someone who truly understands. Loss at any stage of pregnancy is difficult, and loss doulas are trained to support families through it. Locally, I refer to a wonderful loss doula here: inspiredabq.com/about-doulas-at-inspired/loss-doula-services/ A national directory can be found here (among others): www.stillbirthday.com/find-doula/
- Full Spectrum Doulas- This is a broad term with different definitions by different people and organizations. In the most simple scope of practice, a full spectrum doula brings the doula model of care to people experiencing any of the range of pregnancy outcomes which include live birth, elective abortion, adoption, miscarriage, stillbirth and termination for fetal anomalies: www.fullspectrumdoulas.org/ In a wider scope of practice, some full spectrum doulas define their scope of practice as being for people whether or not they are pregnant: www.whds.org/full-spectrum-doula-services.html
- Death Doulas- [Death]"Doulas provide emotional, spiritual, and physical support at an intensely personal and crucial time. They assist people in finding meaning, creating a legacy project, and planning for how the last days will unfold. Doulas also guide and support loved ones through the last days of life and ease the suffering of grief in its early stages." -International End of Life Doula Association All I can say is that I hope to be blessed to have the opportunity to use a death doula when the time comes!