What is a Doula?
The word “Doula” is a Greek word meaning “woman who helps women”.
A Doula is a professionally trained birth companion, who provides emotional, physical and informational support to a mother who is expecting, experiencing labour, or to one who has recently given birth. A Doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.
A worldwide study, involving more than 1500 women, found that mothers who received Doula support were the ones with the shortest labours. Other study benefits found in this study by Klaus et al. include:
- Greater than 50 % drop in caesarean births
- 30% reduction in the Mothers need for medication
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 40% reduction in forceps delivery
Why do you need a Doula ?
The defining characteristic of Doula care is continuous, uninterrupted, emotional and physical support of the women and her partner for the duration of labour and childbirth.
The Doula can use different kinds of touch, massage and positioning, depending on what the mother finds helpful, or she may offer a soothing, reassuring voice. Studies have documented that a Doula’s touch and support leads to reduced pain – or, at the very least, the mother’s perception of reduced pain.
What will a Doula do for me?
- Recognizes childbirth as a key life experience that the mother will always remember
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour
- Assists the women and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plans for the birth
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman gain access to the information she needs to make informed decisions
- Facilitates communication between the labouring woman, her partner, and medical care providers
- Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman’s memory of her birth experience
Beyond labour – benefits to mother and baby after birth:
The benefits of Doula support do not end after the labour and birth. Worldwide research shows:
- Better attachment and bonding between mother and baby
- Reduced need for medical intervention
- Reduced incidence of post partum depression
- Improved mother and baby well- being
- Positive feelings about labour and birth
- More positive breast feeding experience
Doulas are becoming increasingly visible and important in our labour wards because the positive effect that they are having on all who are involved in the birth process. Every woman deserves to have a positive and memorable birth experience. Having a doula with you during your labour and birth will help you to achieve this goal. Doulas can make a difference for you in your birth experience.
What impact can it have on the partner/father.
Partners/Fathers may often ask the question… Does the Doula take away the power of the partner in this critical physiological, emotional event? The answer to this is a very deliberate “NO”. The Doula’s role is also to empower and prepare him/her to assist the labouring mother as much as he/she feels comfortable doing, alongside the Doula, sometimes working as a “team” and allowing him/her to be relieved of the total responsibility of the labouring mothers care and emotional support.
What Doulas do NOT do:
- Doulas are NOT medical professionals
- They do not take over the role of your husband or partner
- They do not deliver the baby
- They do not change shifts
How is a Doula different from a labor and delivery nurse or partner/spouse?
The most important thing a woman needs during labor is continuous support. This means that you have someone by your side continuously from start to finish. A Doula never leaves your side. Nurses have many other responsibilities other than you. Aside from helping care for you, the nurse is communicating with your care provider, taking care of other patients, documenting care, taking breaks, and taking care of other responsibilities. A nurse’s support ends when her shift does. The Doula only has one obligation the whole time she is with you—and that is YOU!
Sometimes people think that they don’t need a Doula because their partner will be there by your side. Doulas and partners can work together to make up a labor support team.
Some medical aids/hospital plans are now covering costs to use a Labour Doula. Either on their “Materinity Program” or through “Medical Savings”. So do check with your Medical Plan 😉