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What Is a Doula? by Jackie G Maxwell

A doula is something between a midwife, and a pre-natal instructor. The word originally came from the Greek, where it meant a woman's personal servant. And while doulas today still serve the needs of women, they are very specific needs related to pregnancy, birth and recovery.

Doulas do not prescribe drugs or take any medical intervention techniques in the care of a pregnant woman or the delivery of her child. As such, practicing doulas in the U.S. or Canada, are not required to be licensed.

Instead, these women help to prepare a mother physically and emotionally for the pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. During this time she will offer emotional support, diet and general health information, physical comforts such as massage, and a steadying presence for a woman who is experiencing one of the greatest changes her body or life will ever undergo.

Depending on your location and availability, a pregnant woman may have one doula who is with her right into the postpartum period, where the birth having occurred, she will continue to offer emotional support, coping skills, instruction and help with infant care, and help for the family to integrate this new addition. Or, it's possible that you may have the option of a doula for the pregnancy and birth, and a second one for the follow up weeks after the baby arrives.

A 1998 study presented in Mothering Magazine, presented statistics that doula assisted pregnancies/births experienced 50% less caesareans, 40% fewer forceps deliveries, 25% shorter labors, and 60% fewer request for epidurals.

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For diagnosis, treatment and medications you should consult a health practitioner.