In today's modern industrialized world, birth is considered to be three trimesters. The final and most life changing period according to Dr Harvey Karp is the postpartum or "fourth" trimester, and is rarely considered. By medical definition the postpartum period is the six weeks following birth. This is the normal time it takes a woman's body to return to its pre-pregnant state. This period however is not just physical. It is emotional, intellectual and relational. The transition between birth and parenthood should include rituals such as the role of the family, baby care basics, feeding support, emotional support, and maternal mentoring. The impact of effective rituals in these areas is undeniable. They can boost the confidence levels of new parents and increase positive parental experiences. The lack of well purposed rituals may lead to postpartum disorders.
In other cultures around the world, postpartum is respected as an important transition from pregnancy to motherhood. The mom is supported by one or more experienced mothers in the daily running of the household and care for other siblings while she rests and recovers from birth while getting to know her new baby. In our busy and mobile culture, experienced family members and friends may have other obligations, live too far away or are simply unable to provide the ongoing supportive and nurturing environment needed for the family. This is where expierenced postpartum care givers can be an invaluable resource, by bridging the gap and providing the missing mentoring.
Doula comes from ancient Greek, and means Mother's Servant. A more modern and commonly used definition is "to mother the mother" . As such a doula will come alongside the new mother and offer non-judgmental support. Providing education not only to the mother, but to all family members. Assist with newborn and family adjustment. Identify issues that may hinder normal progression and how to utilize available resources. Doulas have a deep respect for the family structure, and as such can balance information, guidance and support in a way that empowers the parents to care for their own baby, giving them a sense of accomplishment, success and confidence in their parenting skills.
Doulas may also provide: light household chores, baby laundry, meal prep, sibling care, parent education, errands, overnight support to allow the new parents uninterrupted sleep. Referrals to professional or medical services, and companionship.