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A doula is a professional birth companion trained to provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the pregnant woman and her partner during labor and delivery. Women who want to give birth with minimal or no pain medication often choose a doula to help them cope with the pain of normal labor. If you want to have an epidural or other pain medication, you may want a doula for the constant support during labor. Most doulas make one or two home visits during the last trimester of pregnancy and, if requested, will come to your home in early labor to help you avoid going to the hospital too soon.

Once in the hospital, the doula works as part of the childbirth team, providing a constant, calming presence, answering questions and helping to explain medical procedures that you may not understand. She will show your birth partner ways to support you and may use massage and special tools and techniques and even soothing music to help you cope with labor. Some studies show that women who have doulas have shorter labors, are less likely to ask for epidurals and have lower rates of Cesarean birth.

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