Turns out that Lionel Logue, the speech therapist to King George VI, played beautifully by Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech, had no formal training in speech therapy, or any kind of therapy, in fact. So what did he have?

Lots of qualities shared by a good doula, it turns out. A doula? Wait—isn't a doula like a midwife?

No, we are not much like midwives, actually. To practice legally, midwives have to have the right letters after their names. They have to become experts at a host of clinical skills, including urine testing, cervical exams, fetal heart tone monitoring, and perineal stitching, to name a few. But doulas (the Greek word for "a woman who serves")—we are different. Much of our learning happens outside the classroom, and while we might have letters after our names, certification is optional in all 50 states. We don't do anything medical. Mostly, we're just there.

But "just" being there has a powerful effect on the process of labor and delivery, spilling over into the postpartum weeks as well. An oft-cited series of studies found that women who had a doula with them were 60 percent less likely to request an epidural, 50 percent less likely to have a caesarean, and 40 percent less likely to be delivered by forceps. Additionally, their labors were 25 percent quicker than those without doulas, and they reported lower levels of depression at six weeks postpartum. All this as a result of the presence of a person who isn't required to have a diploma of any kind?

Those who have seen The King's Speech, this year's Oscar winner for Best Picture, will recall that King George VI, "Bertie" to his family and Logue, had seen his share of experts about his stammer, but to no avail. Logue, who was familiar with healthy ...

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