Tomorrow is World Doula Day, which starts off World Doula Week (WDW). WDW is a time when we get to celebrate the awesomeness that is “doulaing”. The work of doulas is still something of a foreign concept to many people, regardless of the many leaps and bounds have been made by this industry of work.
The most commonly known type of doula is the Birth Doula, and although Birth Doulas often support different types of situations, there are other, more specialized, types of doulas. !
What Does "Doula" Even Mean?
The term “doula” is derived the term from modern Greek (δούλα, doúla) meaning “servant-woman” or “woman who serves”. Medical anthropologist Dana Raphael first applied the word in 1976 to describe an experienced woman who assisted another with breastfeeding after giving birth. The term has now grown to encompass those serving women in all things related to childbirth and then some.
So let’s explore some of the different types of doulas…
Also called Antepartum or Prenatal Doulas. As per Wikipedia an Antenatal Doula provides help and support to a mother who has been put on bed rest or is experiencing a high risk-pregnancy. However Antenatal support is not limited to those on bed rest.
An Antenatal Doula provides support to anyone who is pregnant or expecting a baby. Care can involve things like attending appoints, explaining or preparing for procedures and tests, practical in home support, preparing parents for adoptions, and much more.
The most commonly known type of doula; also known as a birth companion or birth supporter. The Birth Doula is a trained non-medical person who assists a person before, during, or after childbirth. Birth Doulas support birthing individuals and their families by providing informational, emotional and physical/practical support – each doula sets out her own way of working so support can differ from one provider to another.
Postpartum Doulas (or Postnatal Doulas) provide help and support to families in in the first weeks after becoming parents with infant and household care. They provide informational, emotional and practical support to families. The support provided by a Postpartum Doula is specialized as per each family’s needs and depends on the doula (some doulas are willing to provide different types of support than others). Although the postpartum period is generally limited to the first 40 days (or 6 weeks) after the birth of the baby, many Postpartum Doulas continue support weeks or months longer than that.
Family Care Doulas
Family Care Doulas provide support to families past the postpartum period. The care they provide can vary greatly depending on the family’s unique needs; however the Family Care Doula will provide informational, emotional and practical support to a family – the specifics of which are dependent on the needs of the family and the services provided by the doula.
An Abortion Doula provides emotional, physical, and informational support to people choosing abortion. The Doula Project is a “New York City initiative to support people facing miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal anomaly.” If you have hired an abortion doula privately the care provided can involve transportation to and from the hospital/clinic and staying with the individual in their home throughout the experience.
These doulas provides support to families experiencing pregnancy loss. A Bereavement Doula provides continuous one-on-one individualized support throughout appointments, during the birth, and supporting the family afterwards. They provide support by holding space for the grieving family, walking the family through their journey, providing them with the resources they need, and providing follow-up support as long as the family needs (and so much more).
End of Life Doulas
Also know as Death Doulas/Death Midwives, they offer support to individuals and family members, physically and spiritually, throughout the process of dying. Some of the services that can be provided include counselling sessions, forgiveness rituals and at-home funerals. These ceremonies (like drumming circles, chants and rituals) are meant to bring comfort to the dying person and those around them. Check our this article to find out more.
The International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) states on their website that their aim is “bringing deeper meaning and greater comfort to the dying [and] enriching hospice end of life care”.
As, World Doula Week is upon us I hope we remember to celebrate all the different types of doula support that are available. Doulaing is so much more than being present at a birth - it is about supporting families and being "in it" with them. Hopefully the work of doulas will become mainstream in the coming years.
Did you learn something? Did I miss a type of doulaing? Let me know!
I'm a doula and nurse who is passionate about creating happy and healthy moms, babies and families. Currently living in Guelph, Ontario while breaking into the world of business and enjoying the four beautiful (and often very crazy) boys in my life.