“Doula” (pronounced “doola”) is a Greek word meaning “woman servant or caregiver”. Nowadays, it refers to a woman who offers emotional and practical support to a mother (or couple) before, during and after childbirth. A Doula believes in “mothering the mother”, enabling a woman to have the most satisfying and empowered time that she can during pregnancy, birth and the early days as a new mum. This type of support also helps the whole family to relax and enjoy the experience.
Research has shown that using a professional Doula will assist in:
- Shorter labours
- Fewer complications
- Reduction in caesarean procedures
- Reduction in oxytocin use
- Reduction in epidural requests
- Reduction in other medical intervention such as forceps and vacuums
It has been also shown to provide great benefits to the mothers directly such as:
- Increased satisfaction with her birth experience
- Less postpartum depression
- Shorter hospital stays
- Increased success of breastfeeding
My personal thoughts on the role of a Doula:
I have had a lot of people ask me why anyone would need a Doula as surely the majority of mothers-to-be will either have a husband / partner / friend / mother with them as well as qualified Doctors and Midwives to look after them through the birth process so why would they want ANOTHER person with them?
My answer to that is that a mother-to-be has complex needs during her labour, childbirth and postnatally and if she has someone present who who has taken the time to get to know her, her birthing preferences, knows about the birth process and who can be a constant support, she will be relaxed and be able to focus on herself and her baby.
Developing a relationship with both my clients and the medical staff is very important as I believe we all need to be supportive of each other in order to provide the labouring mother with the best care. I give my clients a tremendous amount of emotional and psychological support and I am much versed in the normality of labour, as well as the stresses, long hours, complications and lack of sleep. Every couple is different and should receive customised care and support to suit them, based on their individual circumstances and preferences.
If you want your husband/partner with you, throughout your labour and birth, I am most definitely NOT there to take their place. I am there to work together as a team in giving you the best care and support you require.
Part of our job is to try and keep the mothers-to-be and their partners as calm and well informed as possible, as when adrenalin and anxiety “kick-in”, emotions can run high and can cause unnecessary stress on everybody present.
Husbands / partners don’t like to see you in pain and want to do anything and everything to protect you, but sometimes they need somebody to be able to spend time with them and give them a little help and reassurance. Everyone always focuses on the mother-to-be and forgets about the husband / partner who can find this process incredibly difficult to deal with and that’s where as a Doula, I feel my role is important to try to make everyone feel safe and as relaxed as possible and involved as much as the both of you would like to be.
A Doula’s role is not to invade your personal space at all. Labour and birth can be a very private and intimate experience for you or you and your husband / partner, and I definitely wouldn’t want take those special moments away, or for you to feel uncomfortable with my presence. Doula’s can just ‘BE’ and this presence of ours, relaxes mums and dads to a great extent. I can be involved as much or as little as you want me to be, whether it is to rub your back and reassure you or to pay the parking meter and grab you something to eat.
A Doula offers a woman in labour guidance, practical care and loving kindness. She offers a hand to hold. The Doula is a comforting and reassuring presence, offering as she does the full and sensitive attention of someone who knows and understands exactly what the labouring woman is going through.
There are also a lot of single mothers-to-be, mothers who have family too far away and who want someone with them or women who have already given birth but didn’t have the “experience” they had hoped for with their previous birth and they feel that family members or friends might not be able to offer the right kind of support that she feels she needs.
Doulas also most certainly do not take the place of a Midwife / medical professional at all, even though we might have some medical knowledge, we have not been medically trained and we do not profess to “know better” or offer medical advice. Most midwives are usually quite thankful we are there as we can help wherever required without getting in their way or ‘treading on their toes’!
There is an old Indian saying:
“Two people are born when a baby arrives – a mother and a child”.
And this is something that in our busy overmanaged controlling culture, gets overlooked. New mothers need mothering too: they need support, encouragement and compassion as they cross the border into that new and unfamiliar country called motherhood.
For further information about Doulas, please visit the My Baby Radio Podcast about doulas, which includes and interview with Valerie from Nurturing Birth.