Updated: Feb 4, 2019
Doula, ‘a woman who serves’ is a professional with training and experience around birth who can provide support, before and during birth in a practical, emotional and educational way.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU HIRE A DOULA
Throughout pregnancy, a doula will provide a continuous support with information, practical advice and emotional encouragement for anything pregnancy related. She enhances the link of communication between you and your doctor and helps you with coping mechanisms for labour. What makes this relationship special is the trust built throughout gestation, which is absolutely necessary for someone who will share with you a very intimate event such as birth.
Your Doula is just a call away when your labour starts. She will come to your house at the initial stages of labour and stay with you until your baby is born. She will ‘hold space’ for you and act as a source of continuous reassurance during labour. She provides comfort measures (such as breathing, massage, movement, positioning) in a very gentle but powerful way. In contrast to midwives who may need to change shifts, she is constantly there with you riding the waves of birth.
WHAT DOULAS ARE NOT FOR A Doula will not perform any clinical examinations or diagnosis and she does not substitute your doctor, midwife or partner! She is not biased and will not judge you for the decisions that you will make for your birth.
DOULAS AND DADS It is very important for the father to be present at birth and no one can substitute his role. However, birth can also be overwhelming for him and having another person who has knowledge about birth and is aware of how things work in the hospitals is very useful. A doula can hold space and support you both so your experience of birth is memorable, empowering and connecting. Doulas and dads make a very powerful birth support team together!
WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE FOR HAVING A DOULA It has been shown that women having a continuous support from a doula before and during birth have a more positive overall experience. They are more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and C-sections. In addition, labors are shorter by about 40 minutes and babies are less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth (2012, Hodnett et al).
WHY DOULAS ARE EFFECTIVE The most important reason that a Doulas presence is so helpful during birth is because of the conditions of the birthing environment today. Since birth has moved from home into the clinics and hospitals the environment has become ‘hush’ for the requirements of the
birthing process. Women are more easily subjected to intervention and routine procedures, there is lack of privacy, bright lighting, strangers coming in and out of the room and needles! A woman giving birth is at a very venerable state and these conditions are very likely to slow down labour and decrease self-confidence while increasing the risk for intervention. A doula will ‘protect’ the space of the labouring woman and support the requirements of birth, filtering out anything, which is potentially interfering. In addition to increasing self-confidence, the continuous support and comfort measures act as natural pain relief so labour is more likely to proceed naturally.