Why we need doulas in the Arab World?
Doulas are most certainly an asset to the birth team anywhere in the world providing continuous emotional support throughout the pregnancy, labour and birth to both mum and dad. I believe that hiring a doula is even more important in this part of the world for lots of reasons that I will talk about.
I am incredibly lucky to have met and worked as a doula for families from every corner of the earth. I feel hugely honoured to have had the opportunity to get to know and support several local UAE national families and I have loved to hear about the birth traditions and cultures in this area.
Traditionally, the entire extended family is involved in the birth process for Emiratis thus making a doula someone who isn’t really needed. However, I have noticed that more modern Arab women are finding that they enjoy the support of someone from outside of their family circle.
My first experience with working with an Arab family was interesting. I met all the close female relatives and the mother’s father and brother during my antenatal visits. I had a feeling that the family were a little wary and suspicious to begin with as the role of a doula was something they didn’t completely understand but slowly I succeeded in convincing them of my usefulness!! To this day, getting to know this family has been one of my favourite doula experiences and I still communicate with the family often. I do hope that I have helped the doula cause and hopefully more Arab families will see hiring a doula as a sensible thing to do.
Giving birth is both physically and mentally challenging and expectant mothers need to make sure that they are completely supported throughout the process. The vast majority of the women that I support in my work as a doula are far from home without family support.
This can lead to a build up of anxiety which in turn can affect the birth process and the whole experience. When giving birth in their home countries most mums would have the support of a friend, mother or sister, this generally isn’t the case here in the Middle East and this is where my role is incredibly important.
As an expat, living in a foreign country it is easy to feel frightened and alone when pregnant. Health Care systems are different and unfamiliar. A pregnant woman must feel safe, supported and informed and as a doula experienced in birth in the region I can offer this and hopefully guide parents through the often confusing and scary process.
It is unfortunately true that in many cases the birth process in the region is often very medically managed. For some women this is what they want and they are perfectly happy to have their birth managed all the way but for other women this is not something they want at all and part of my job is to educate women to make the right decisions for them and their baby so that they feel they were part of the whole process.
This is incredibly important, especially postnatally when women often sit and analyse their birth experiences and sometimes feel that things ran away from them and that they weren’t part of the decision-making process.
I have seen such feelings becoming intense and occasionally lead to post-natal depression so it’s important to do whatever we can to feel good about our births!
The time will come for me in the next few years when I return to the UK, my home country where I hope to continue with my work as a doula/hypnobirthing teacher and breast feeding counsellor but I will always hold dear the memories I have as working as a doula in the Arab world.