The doula at a turning point in the history of childbirth

(extract from "The Farmer and the Obstetrician" by Michel Odent. Free Association books 2002)

How to become an informed doula

Women who want to present themselves as doulas do not need any specific training. Being a mother has already given them this training. However they need some updated information, so that young women feel more secure with them. They must be able to discuss "hot topics" such as ultra ultra-sound scans or early multiple vaccinations. They must be able to communicate basic information on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. A doula course should include a programme of first aid in obstetrics. During pregnancy certain situations are so exceptionally rare that there is a dangerous tendency to think of them in terms of chapters for text books and exams which can be forgotten in real life. However a good doula must know about them.

"Doula" is originally a Greek word. In fact the Greek community unanimously regards this term with aversion, because "doula" means "slave". The Greek community would prefer a term such as "paramana", which has the same meaning as "midwife" in old English ("with wife"). It can be understood as a sort of second mother. However, for practical reasons, it is probably better to keep the world "doula", which is now understood all over the world. I heard of doulas in countries as far apart and as different from each other as Hungary and Korea. I guess that the word will soon appear in the Oxford dictionary.

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