For me, a doula is a well-informed woman who has a desire to assist women in an extremely important time of their lives. A doula will work with you and your partner to build the support you’ll need throughout labor, delivery and post-partum. Regardless of age, number of previous babies or how you’ve birthed before a doula will provide you with experience, information and a stress free environment that is necessary to birth.
Research has found that women who have continuous one-on-one support during labor tend to use pain medication less often, have slightly shorter labors, and are less likely to have a c-section or a forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery. In fact, if you’re serious about trying to give birth without pain medication, a doula may be your best ally.₁
Doulas are trained and experienced in childbirth and are usually mothers themselves. While they have good knowledge and awareness of the birth process, a doula does not support the mother in a medical role. That is the job of the midwife or doctor. A doula helps to keep birth normal (if that is the wishes of the birthing mother), and is a valuable addition to the birth team.
Should a birth become complicated and require medical assistance, a doula will still remain by your side and help in any way she can. She will not make decisions for those she supports, but she will assist them through the decision making process. A doula provides balanced information so the couple can make their own choices. Many women consider doulas to be an absolute must, especially for those giving birth in a hospital. Due to the over-medicalisation of birth, inductions of labor have skyrocketed, and are partly to blame for the 30% cesarean rate!
A doula may provide some or all of the following services, dependent on her training and skills. Often doulas are also qualified in other therapies too, so it always helps to ask!
- Birth education and preparation
- Birth planning (including creating a written birth plan/birth preferences document)
- De-briefing previous births
- Massage and other comfort measures
- Suggest positions and changes to help ease pain and facilitate a smoother, more effective labor
- Provide reassurance and encouragement
- Optimal fetal positioning
- Talking through emotional blockages which may come up during pregnancy and in labor
- Keep your ‘environment’ going – aromatherapy, music, candles etc
- Assisting you with negotiation of your preferences
- Photography and/or video of the birth itself, as well as those precious first moments as a family₂