I, Kelly Collins, am NOT a birth doula. Not yet anyway.
Whenever I tell someone that I am a doula, 99% of them assume that I am a birth doula. At the moment, I have only been trained to be a postpartum doula. However, I have recently made the decision to become a birth doula in the future. There are many services I'd like to eventually offer my clients as I learn more and grow my business.
While learning about various doula certifying programs and institutions, I started to learn more and more about the different types of doulas and the roles that they play in a family's life. Typically, a doula provides non-judgmental, unbiased support and care for new mothers and their families. As doulas become more essential to parents all over the world, I wanted to share the many options the doula community provides. Here are several roles where doulas can give support:
*Antepartum doula: This type of doula assists mothers and families during pregnancy. Most times antepartum doulas serve pregnant women who have a high-risk pregnancy. Antepartum doulas can be very reassuring to new mothers who may need extra support during pregnancy and they are able to provide both physical and emotional support to them. More often they will also help with light housework or cooking for a mother who needs to take it easy. *Bed rest doula services may also be an option for the clients of antepartum doulas if they need even more assistance.
*Adoption doula: Adoption and/or foster doulas will often support both the birth mother and the adopting/foster family. They sometimes serve as a liaison between the two families. These doulas provide the birth mother with many educational resources prior to her birth, support her through labor as her birth doula, guide her after birth and be a part of the birth mother's ongoing support system. The doula can then assist the adopting/fostering family in preparing for their baby and help them through the journey of receiving and bonding with their new baby.
Abortion doula: These types of doulas specialize in helping expectant mothers during the emotional process of abortion. The mother will experience many emotions as well as physical side effects and will need an open-minded and sensitive individual to support her. These qualities are very important in the scope of an abortion doula.
Birth (labor) doula: The birth doula is the most common and popular of this list. A birth doula’s job is to support a mother and family through the process of labor and the birth of a baby. This support includes providing educational information regarding birth, mental and emotional encouragement, physical support during labor, breathing techniques and labor positions and any other non-medical assistance to the laboring mother and her partner. Birth doulas will typically include 1 or 2 prenatal visits prior to the birth and 1 or 2 postpartum visits following birth to help with breastfeeding and to ensure things are going well.
Bereavement doula: Usually a doula helps families adjust to life with their new baby. Miscarriage or loss doulas are often women who have experienced this themselves, and make themselves available to provide emotional, physical, and informational support to women and families processing these losses. Like other doulas, they have specialized knowledge and resources for support, and can also provide the services of a postpartum doula to help grieving families through the healing process.
End of life (death) doula: Some women have taken steps to become a doula for older people who are experiencing health crises, or have little time left on earth. This doula may spend many hours providing companionship, conversation, comfort and encouragement to someone in their last days or hours. End of life doulas are beginning to become more mainstream in America.
*Postpartum doula: A postpartum doula is a temporary family care giver and an expert in normal adjustment. We are trained specifically to help with the many changes that families experience following the birth of a baby. Postpartum doulas assist families for up to 12 weeks and sometimes longer. Some postpartum doulas, like me, offer bed rest doula services to mothers who may have pregnancy complications or a high risk pregnancy. The mother would have a companion and helper until she is ready to give birth. *Sibling doulas assist families that have older children who may need care while mom and dad are in the hospital or while a new mom is recovering from birth.
Full-Spectrum doula: A full spectrum doula is a combination of many or all of the doulas listed above. These doulas have years of experience and lots of knowledge about birth and the postpartum period to support any family who may need it.
"Adulting" Doula: Because of the response from one of my February blog posts, I have realized that while the world is just starting to recognize the modern day doula, our roles are beginning to expand beyond the birth community. More and more adults are making the connection of how a doula can support them at any time, no matter the circumstances. I am sure that the list above will only grow as doulas are accepted as mainstream, non-medical birth professionals.
The value of hiring a doula and the care they provide has grown tremendously over the last several years. As my business grows, I hope to offer several of these services and possibly become a full-spectrum doula. I want to offer all families seeking a doula a wide range of services, no matter what their family looks like and/or how they may need support.
Thinking of hiring a doula? These questions may help you decide.
* denotes all of the doula services I currently offer to families.