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DONA International
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Position Papers

Postpartum doulas support families

Present health care practices in much of the developed world, combined with a lack of cultural rituals leave families virtually unsupported in the crucial year of childbirth. There is a great deal of evidence suggesting that quality support can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to the family. By educating, attending to the needs of the parents, infant and children and by offering quality referral information, the postpartum doula can ease and enhance the postpartum experience. Every family can benefit from the support and encouragement offered by a doula during the fourth trimester.

Download the DONA International Position Paper: The Postpartum Doula’s Role in Modern Maternity Care (PDF)




Postpartum Support Terminology

The terminology describing postpartum support can be confusing. When a person uses any of the terms below to describe herself, she may need to clarify what she means by the term.

Doula – A Greek word meaning "woman’s servant". While the same doula may provide both birth care and postpartum care, it is necessary to differentiate between the two types of doulas:

Postpartum Doula – A supportive advisor and helper, professionally trained to provide postpartum support to the mother and her family.

Birth Doula – A person professionally trained to provide support to the woman and partner during labor and childbirth.

Baby Nurse – A professionally trained or lay person who comes into the home and cares for a newborn baby. Some "baby nurses" are licensed nurses who provide care for infants with medical needs. Others are lay people who specialize in the care of babies. Baby nurses are different from doulas in that their role is specifically geared toward infant care. Doulas provide excellent infant care, but their primary focus is educating and supporting parents and providing breastfeeding support, emotional support, resources and any necessary referral information.

Mother’s Helper – A lay person, either adult or adolescent, who comes into the home to assist parents with childcare and household tasks. A "mother’s helper" is not trained in breastfeeding education, integrating the baby into the home or the many other aspects of postpartum doula support.

Questions to Ask
a Postpartum Doula

To discover the specific training, experience and services offered by anyone who provides postpartum support, potential clients, nursing supervisors, physicians, midwives and others should ask the following questions of that person:

  • What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you might consider checking with the organization.)
  • Have you had a criminal background check, a recent TB test and current CPR certification?
  • Tell me/us about your experience as a postpartum doula.
  • What is your philosophy about parenting and supporting women and their families during postpartum?
  • May I/we meet to discuss my/our postpartum needs and the role you will play in supporting me/us in the postpartum period?
  • What different types of services do you offer?
  • May I/we call you with postpartum questions or concerns before the birth?
  • When do your services begin after birth?
  • What is your experience in breastfeeding support?
  • Do you work with one or more backup doulas for times when you are not available? May I/we meet them?
  • What are your fees and refund policies?

Learn more in the For Mothers & Families section of this website
How to Hire a Doula

Photography above by:
© Carol Roberts
Used with permission.





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