Doulas: Who are they and How can They Help During Pregnancy?
I am blessed to have what I consider to be the best job on earth, a doula!
I stumbled into this amazing work whilst researching midwifery for my daughter 5 years ago, she is now a qualified midwife and I’m a very proud mum. Years ago I gained a place at university to study midwifery but fell pregnant with my fourth child, a wonderful surprise and I put my midwifery dreams on hold only to later discover what I feel is my absolute dream!
What is a Doula?
There are different types of doulas, prenatal doulas, birth doulas and postnatal doulas, I tend to cover all of those areas!
Many people look quizzically at me when I say I am a doula, it’s a word that most have never heard of before. The word doula actually derives from ancient Greece and means “a woman who serves”. Doulas are trained professionals who give continuous physical (non-medical), emotional, and informational support to expectant, laboring and postpartum mothers and their families. It is actually very traditional in many cultures for women to give birth with the support of other experienced women but increasingly this tradition has been disappearing in favor of a more medical approach with doctors, midwives and maybe the woman’s husband present. Luckily it is recognized by many people that women often tend to have a much better labor experience when supported by another woman aside from the medical professionals.
How can a Doula Help?
A birthing doula’s role is to help you
- Have a positive and safe birth experience. It is so important for a woman to be able to look back on her labor and birth and feel good about it and a doula can really help with this.
- Help with breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, laboring positions, massage for comfort,
- Make sure you eat and drink enough
- Help decide when to go to the hospital
- and something I think is very important is the offer of support to Dad.
Dads sometimes feel a little out of place in the birthing room, not really knowing what is going on and what they can do to help. Doulas can act as a birth “translator”, explaining the stages, reassuring dad and helping him to help his partner. I believe some dads are worried they will be pushed out by a doula but this is certainly not a case, we are there for the whole family!
Many studies have shown that hiring a doula can benefit the mother in many ways. A Cochrane review updated in 2012 compiled data from 22 trials of 15,000 women whose birth experiences included women who had different kinds of continuous support during labor or none at all. The results showed that women who had continuous support, especially from a doula were more likely to have spontaneous births and less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, C sections, or negative feelings about childbirth.
Other benefits include:
Increased chance of a positive childbirth experience
Higher breastfeeding success rate
Better maternal self-esteem
Lower blood pressure during labor
Less pain experienced
When is the best time to look for a doula?
In my opinion, there isn’t a “best time” to look for a doula. I have worked with mums from as early as 14 weeks to as late as the day they go into labor! Saying that I think it is preferable for a doula and client family to get to know each other as they will be sharing a truly incredible and intimate experience, it is vital that the dynamics work and they feel comfortable together or their presence may actually be counter-productive.
I urge parents to meet with several doulas and choose someone they feel in tune with and someone who has similar views on labored childbirth. There is a doula out there to suit everyone!
I offer prenatal visits (the number depending upon the needs of each individual family), an on-call period beginning 2 weeks before the EDD, attendance during labour (either at home or at hospital as the mother wants on the day), presence at the birth, early breastfeeding support and postnatal visits (again the number depending upon mum’s requirements). Different doulas have various packages so make sure this is discussed at the interview stage.
I urge you all to consider hiring a doula and wish you good luck on your journey!