The word doula is a Greek word meaning women’s servant. Women have been serving other women in childbirth for many centuries and have proven that support from another woman has a positive impact on the labour process.
A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the mother who is expecting, is experiencing labour, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.
What does a doula do?
Most doula-client relationships begin a few months before the baby is due. During this period, they develop a relationship where the mother feels free to ask questions, express her fears and concerns, and takes an active role in creating a birth plan. Most doulas make themselves available to the mother by phone in order to respond to her questions or explain any developments that might arise during the course of the pregnancy. Doulas do not provide any type of medical care. However, they are knowledgeable in many medical aspects of labour and delivery. Consequently, they can help their clients gain a better understanding of the procedures and possible complications of late pregnancy or delivery.
During birth, doulas are in constant and close proximity to the mother.They have the ability to provide comfort with pain relief techniques that include breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, massage, and labouring positions. Doulas also encourage participation from the partner and offer reassurance. A doula acts as an advocate for the mother, encouraging and helping her fulfill specific desires that she might have for her birth.The goal of a doula is to help the mother experience a positive and safe birth, whether an un-medicated birth or cesarean.
After the birth, many birth doulas will spend some time helping mothers begin the breastfeeding process and encouraging bonding between the newbaby and other family members.
What about the father’s role when using a doula?
The role of the doula is never to take the place of husbands or partners in labour, but to complement and enhance their experience. Today, more husbands are an active role in the birth process. However, some partners prefer to enjoy the delivery without having to stand in as the labour coach. By having a doula as a part of the birth team, a father is free to do whatever he chooses. Doulas can encourage the father to use comfort measures and can step in if he wants a break. Having a doula allows the father to support his partner emotionally during labour and birth and to also enjoy the experience without the added pressure of trying to remember everything he learned in childbirth class!
Are doulas only useful if planning an un-medicated birth?
The presence of a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you are planning. Many women report needing fewer interventions when they have a doula. But be aware that the primary role of the doula is to help mothers have a safe and pleasant birth–not to help them choose the type of birth. For women who have decided to have a medicated birth, the doula will provide emotional support, informational support and comfort measures through labour and the administration of medications. Doulas work alongside medicated mothers to help them deal with possible side effects and other needs where medication might be inadquate, because even with medication, there is likely to be some degree of discomfort.
For a mother facing a cesarean, a doula can be helpful by providing constant support and encouragement. Often a cesarean results from an unexpected situation leaving mothers feeling unprepared, disappointed and lonely. A doula can be attentive to mothers at all times throughout the cesarean, letting them know what is going on throughout the procedure. This can free the partner to attend to the baby and accompany the newborn to the nursery if there are complications.
What about other types of doulas?
There are three types of doulas: the Ante-natal Doula, the Birth Doula and the Post-natal Doula:
Ante-natal Doulas provide help and support to a mother who has been put on bed rest or is experiencing a high risk-pregnancy. They provide informational, emotional, physical and practical support in circumstances that are often stressful, confusing and emotionally draining.
A Birth Doula is a birth companion who offers emotional and physical support to labouring women to give them comfort and strength to be able to cope better with their labour.
Post-natal Doulas provide help and support in the first weeks after becoming a mother. They provide informational support about feeding and caring for the baby. They provide physical support by cleaning, cooking meals and filling in when a new mother needs a break. They provide emotional support by encouraging a mother during those times when she might be feeling overwhelmed.
Alexa trained as a doula at Paranama Doula UK with Dr. Michel Odent and Liliana Lammers in February 2013 in London. She lives in Battersea and supports women in all areas in London.
For Alexa’s Doula Packages click here
For more information on doulas please visit: http://www.doula.org.uk