Doulas provide emotional and practical support during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. According to Doula UK. While doulas are not there to change outcomes, there is growing evidence that having a birth or postnatal doula brings a number of tangible benefits, from reducing intervention rates to shortening labour and improving the condition of babies at birth. Other benefits include an increased likelihood of successful breastfeeding and lower rates of postnatal depression.
Doula support, or ‘mothering the mother’, can be vital in today’s society. Women have supported women having babies since the beginning of time. The community surrounding a woman, their “village”, would come together to give hands-on help and emotional support. Today, we are living differently; often working longer hours, having children later and with more opportunity to live in different places. A result may be a loss of that “village”. The doula community helps women find it again.
Throughout history, women have been supported by other women during childbearing. Yet, as families begin living farther apart and as birth becomes increasingly medicalized, fewer women receive this kind of support. Because they have many other responsibilities and are usually attending more than one woman, doctors, maternity nurses — and sometimes even midwives can rarely be with a woman continuously. Fathers and partners offer support, but they too are experiencing the birth of their baby and coping with their new and evolving identities. serves.
A doula should have no judgement, their role is simply to nurture unconditionally, through care, support and love, so that birthing people can focus their energies on loving and caring for their babies and themselves.
Labor and postpartum doulas have stepped into this vacuum a space traditionally filled by the mothers, aunts, sisters, grandparents and neighbors in our communities and their use is becoming more popular in the United States and around the world.
There is, however, a lack of understanding of the doula role and a shortage of doula support available to disadvantaged families.
There should definitely be more community-based doulas or doula programmes.
The services doulas offer depend on their training and skills, but include:
• Birth education
• Creating a birth plan
• Discussing and healing from previous births
• Continuous labour support
• Partner support
• What to do if you go past your due date
• Massage and other comfort measures, such as pressure points
• Suggesting positions to help ease pain
• Discussing options for pain relief
• Emotional support for the pregnancy and birth
• Assisting with your birth environment (lighting candles, playing music in the delivery room)
• Assisting you with negotiation of your birth choices
• Photography and/or video of the labor, birth, and golden hour
• Breastfeeding help when the baby is born.
A doctor is focused on keeping the baby safe and sound, but a doula is focused only on the mother. The biggest benefit of having a doula is that you have a woman trained and experienced with labour and birth, whose sole job is to support you. A doula doesn’t also have to do anything medical or check on other patients like a doctor might. She is there for you and your needs. You might be thinking, my partner will be by my side; he’ll tend to me but keep in mind that the birth experience can be extremely emotional and surreal for him, too. He might not even know how to help you. That’s where the doula steps in. The doula provides reassurance to the partner when everything is going smoothly, and helps facilitate communication between the mother and her partner when it’s not. Doulas can also tag team with the partner to provide labor support to the mum so that the partner gets to rest when he needs to. A doula understands the importance of the birth experience, so she aims to help make sure those memories are as positive as possible.
Alison Ogier has been a Birth and Post Natal Doula since 2011.
Here, Alison outlines what a doula does.
‘Doulas work with families throughout their pregnancy journey, birth and immediate post natal period. They provide a non judgemental, evidenced based approach to the specific needs and wants of that family which includes sign posting to information on birthing choices and all the options open to them along with an unbiased collection of stats for each family to decide for themselves what is applicable to them. They provide emotional and practical support during birth by bringing a calm presence, reminding each family of their options along the way as well as hands on support such as massage, pool filling and initiating breastfeeding.
Post natally Doulas are there to provide support as the family adjusts to the new dynamic so this might include breastfeeding support, cooking, light house work and listening as we are there in a debriefing capacity too.’
I became a Doula due to the lack of continuity of care in maternity services and wanting to provide families with an unbiased approach to their journey as the health care professionals do not always present things as a choice. My goal is simply for people to not regret any choices made as well as feel heard and positive about their birthing experience.
What I get from it is knowing that each family I support is more educated, empowered and in tune with each other to facilitate a healthy parenting journey. They will know their choices and have the conviction to follow their instincts regardless of race, religion or socio economic circumstance.’
There can be huge benefits to having a doula. First, because they will be with you all the way through your pregnancy and labour. That means you get to know them well, which can be very reassuring – especially if your maternity service can’t provide the same continuity.
Doulas can also provide continuous support during labour and birth. Research has found that continuous support during labour and birth is beneficial for women and for their babies.
Doulas have also been shown to yield good results for vulnerable women or women who need more culturally sensitive support. So if that’s relevant to you, it might be worth seriously considering a doula as an option.
Doula UK – www.doula.org.uk
Alison Ogier – Birth and Post Natal Doula