What is a Doula?
Doula is a Greek word whose definition has come to mean a woman who helps other women. The word has further evolved to mean a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during and after childbirth. – Klaus
Non-medical women supporting women to give birth is an ancient practice that is still widespread all over the world today. Traditionally it was a close family member, a sister or mother, who would provide a woman with continuous support throughout pregnancy, labour and birth. Sadly, in our society, this vital link between women has been lost. The move of birth from home to hospital, the distance between family members, and the importance of father’s involvement, means that women are often left without the support of a known female.
Changes in maternity care mean that women might not see the same midwife twice, and will probably have a midwife helping them during labour that they have never met before. Midwives do their upmost to be there for the women they care for, but unfortunately, the demands of the job mean they cannot offer continuous support throughout pregnancy, labour, and birth.
This is where a Doula comes in. Simply, a Doula’s role is to be there, to support you as you need her, from when you book her until six weeks after the birth. She will meet with you during pregnancy, come to your house as labour progresses, stay with you throughout your labour and for a short time after the birth, and meet you postnatally to discuss the events!
Studies show that having a doula has benefits for both mother and baby, including:-
- Shortens first-time labour by an average of 2 hours
- Decreases the chance of caesarean section by 50%
- Decreases the need for pain medication
- Helps fathers participate with confidence
- Increases success in breastfeeding (1)
Having a Doula means that you have someone to talk through your worries, fears, hopes and dreams with. You can plan ways of coping together, and be reassured that when the big day comes, your doula will only be a phone call away. You can look forward to your labour feeling relaxed, positive and prepared.
Doulas often work alongside the woman’s partner, and are not meant to be a substitute. So much is expected of a partner, who often has no experience of childbirth. A doula will be there to support the partner as well, making sure they can approach the birth feeling positive, and can enjoy the experience and take on a support role they feel comfortable with.
If you do not plan to have a partner with you, then a Doula can take on the role of your birth partner.
(1) Klaus, M. H.,Kennell, J. H. and Klaus, P. H. (2002) The doula book. Cambridge, Perseus Book Group. Chapter 5