Postpartum doula: what it means and why it’s worthwhile

Before you give birth, read this. Did you know that a doula can help you even after birth? Here is everything you need to know about a postpartum doula.

 Pregnant woman (Illustrative) (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Pregnant woman (Illustrative)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

You were probably asked during pregnancy if you intend to use a doula's services during the birth process, but did you know that a doula can help you even afterwards?

Naomi Cohen, a postpartum doula, is here to introduce you to a new world. 

The word ‘doula’ comes from the ancient Greek language and roughly translates to “a woman who helps.” 

During childbirth, the role of the accompanying doula is to support and help the mother go through the birth in the best possible way while providing physical assistance. She maintains the intimacy between the two spouses and is the mediator between them and the medical staff.

What is the role of the postpartum doula, a doula after birth? 

 Pregnant woman (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE) Pregnant woman (illustrative) (credit: INGIMAGE)

The postpartum period, and especially the first birth, can be exciting and empowering, but can also be challenging while you recover from the birth and experience an unprecedented emotional load and unbalanced hormones. 

New moms will feel stress, anxiety and other uneasy feelings. Some are normal "baby blues" and while others may manifest as postpartum depression, something that requires greater analysis and treatment.

In contrast to modern Western culture, mothers in other cultures would be supported by a "female tribe"  enveloping her while she recovers from childbirth. 

These women massaged her, fed her, and even performed traditional rituals to help her recover. Grandmothers, sisters and other relatives would help her take care of the baby and transition the mother into her new role.

Today, this type of help is more limited than it once was. This is exactly where a postpartum doula comes into the picture. Her role is to create a shell of support for the mother and her family. 

It is recommended to meet with the doula before the birth in a preparation meeting to work on communication with the fetus and its preparation for the birth. At this stage, the parents will receive tools and information about baby care in the first days, with emphasis on the first night at home.

After the birth, there are a variety of ways in which the mother can be supported. 

Some may request that the doula accompany them at night while still in the hospital. The doula will help establish breastfeeding and give guidance, or feed from a bottle, or anything else the mom requests. 

Other mothers may order a doula after already returning home from the hospital, so that it will help them adjust to new parenting, guide them as needed and teach them basic baby care, like administering the first bath, and more.

A postpartum doula can often teach tools, like how to massage away gas, help with breastfeeding or give tips on emotional wellbeing.

An equally important role of the postpartum doula is to listen - to let the mom process and express all of the feelings that arise in the first days and months after the birth.  The doula can continue to help the mom with onsite and online meetings.