The word doula comes from the Greek meaning “female servant” and in modern terms means “a woman who assists women during labor and after childbirth.” (I would also add that dads need doulas too. Their lives are changing as well, they want to know what’s going on, and can use ideas on how to support their wives.)
A CAPPA doula (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association) provides such things as information on birth choices so parents can make informed decisions, helping create a comfortable environment during labor and birth, and supporting parents through pregnancy, birth and early postpartum. Doulas specialize in assisting mothers with comfort techniques during labor. There are so many choices as pertains to childbirth. A doula’s role is to present these choices to parents and support those choices even if they differ from her own personal preferences. A doula helps parents advocate for themselves.
Not all doulas are trained and certified through an organization. Certification provides credibility. Visit CAPPA’s website to learn more about labor doula certification and the other certification programs they offer. CAPPA also has a search engine so you can find doulas in your area.
Process: Interview (via phone or in person) a prospective doula to see if they will be a good help to your family. Once you’ve decided to hire a doula, you will sign her contract (pay the deposit she requests) and proceed with a prenatal visit. Most doulas provide one or two prenatal visits, are present at the labor and birth, and come for one postpartum visit. Doulas in training will charge less than certified doulas. Some doulas offer photography, belly casting, and other additions to their doula services (usually with an increase in cost.)
For further information, “The Doula Advantage” by Rachel Gurevich overflows with great explanations about what a doula does, the benefits of having a doula at your birth, and how to find one.