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Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.

Much Ado About Doulas

Written by Joe Ulrich, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | May 11, 2015 10:29 AM

Pregnant Woman

A quick internet search for the phrase "What is a doula?" makes it obvious that there's some confusion for many people as to what a doula is and does. Questions like "Do you need a doula?" and "What does a doula REALLY do" appear in the search results. "Families hire wedding planners to help them through all the details of their wedding," says Gwendolyn McComsey with Lancaster Doulas. "A doula is a lot like a wedding planner to birth."

Doulas are non-medical persons who can provide informational and emotional support during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period. A doula can span the entire process by helping with a birth plan, providing support during labor and answering questions or even watching the child while the parent(s) sleep after the baby is born.

Their services can provide a level of support and comfort that can be valuable in addition to that of spouses, friends or family, but a doula can also provide support for someone who may not have a strong network of people.

Doulas have sometimes caused controversy when they step outside of their scope of practice as non-clinical entities. According to a New York Times article a hospital in Virginia has banned the use of doulas because of issues with doulas interfering with medical staff and also because some doulas have attempted to give a patient medical advice.

Lancaster Doulas

Photo by Joe Ulrich

Gwendolyn McComsey and Holly Yeager of Lancaster Doulas.

But when a doula stays within the bounds of the practice, their service can enhance the experience of a pregnancy. The word "doula" comes from Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and it appears that the service is one that is increasingly desirable. 

As a note of disclosure: Joe Ulrich has done paid photography work for Lancaster Doulas in the past.

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