A doula is a woman who helps another woman during and after birth to support her emotionally and physically, as well as providing information for the new mother.

Derived from the Greek meaning “to serve,” doulas are now recognized as a member of the maternity care team.

Douglas College’s perinatal program, a leader in birth and labour education offers doula training — a labour support program — which is one of the most significant areas recognized in a better birthing process.

“Basically what we’re doing as a birth doula and postpartum doula is mothering the mother,” says Kathleen Lindstrom, perinatal program manager of Health Sciences at Douglas College, who has been present at more than 500 births, and teaches the doula training workshops.

“Women supporting other women in labour isn’t anything new, and goes back thousands of years,” she said. “Historically, women have always been with women in labour and birth, and that changed when birth went into the hospitals. And birth became something that was done to women, not something women did.”

Lindstrom has offered the birthing doula program at Douglas College for the past 16 years as well as training for the postpartum doula.

“We do a two-day training to get them started toward their certification process. We’re affiliated with DONA International, which is the certifying body for our doulas. So the first step is to take this workshop and then they have up to three years to complete their certification,” Lindstrom said.

DONA is the international body for education and certification of doulas with a presence in 22 countries around the world.

Research has shown that information and consistent emotional and physical support had many benefits to the well-being of both the mother and baby.

There’s a lot of training but it’s all in the clinical aspects of birth, says Lindstrom. “That was the piece that was missing. The consistence of physical, emotional, and informational support.”

The doula’s role is complementary to other health-care providers, and she will meet with the woman and the family ahead of time so she is a known presence for the woman, says Lindstrom.

“If she’s delivering in a hospital, it’s usually with people she has never met before.”

Lindstrom, who also teaches doula training at UBC’s medical, nursing and midwifery programs, received an award last Thursday for excellence in inter-professional education for the collaboration.

The youngest doula the program has certified is 15 years old and the oldest is 72, says Lindstrom.

For more info, visit www.bcdoulas.org.

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