The Benefits and Purpose of Doulas
You may have heard the word 'doula' spoken by pregnant women before, but what does it actually mean?
16 May 2016
The word 'doula' is a Greek word meaning "women servant or caregiver", and it has been believed for many centuries by women that having the support from another woman during pregnancy and childbirth helps the labouring process.
But what is a doula, who is a doula, and how do you go about finding one to help with your pregnancy plans?
What is a doula?
Basically, a doula is someone who offers emotional and physical support to a woman and her partner before, during and after childbirth.
They are a professional trained in childbirth, who provides emotion, educational and physical support to an expectant mother who is in labour, or has recently given birth.
A doula believes in 'mothering the mother', as she enables expectant parents to have the most satisfying birth experience possible, from pregnancy and into motherhood.
There are many different types of doulas, too; including antepartum doulas and postpartum doulas, and they can also be referred to as labour companions, labour support specialists, labour support professionals, birth assistants or labour assistants.
What does a doula do?
Depending on her training and skills, doulas may provide some or all of the below services.
- Birth education and preparation
- Birth planning
- De-briefing previous births
- Massages/comfort measures
- Optimal fetal positioning
- Talk through difficult emotional stages
- Provide reassurance and encouragement
- Suggest positions to help ease pain and help labour
- Maintain birthing environment that was planned
- Photography or video the birth and first moments as a family
- Act as a listening ear when needed
- Provide comfort with pain-relief techniques during childbirth
- Guidance with breathing and relaxation techniques
- Encourage participation from the partner
There are many more roles of a doula, which you can delve into if and when you find your own. Often they have experience in other therapies, so it's worth asking what else they can offer you during this exciting and important time.
Just remember, the main benefit of hiring a doula is the fact that they will be a professional birth support person. They will be caring and nuturing, but able to remain calm and focused if things go unplanned.
Who is a doula?
They are usually trained and experienced in childbirth, and mothers themselves. They should have a good knowledge and awareness of the birthing process, but they are not there in a medical role, nor can they make decisions for you. They are simply supportive and can offer guidance.
With a doula, you always know someone is on your team, she works for you and your partner, and has your best interests at heart.
What are the proven benefits of having a doula?
A number of studies of the years have documented the benefits of having a doula present during childbirth. It is believed that birth mothers who had a doula by her side said they have had a positive childbirth experience overall.
Not only is there emotional benefits, but medical ones, too. Studios have previously shown that the caesarean rate of women supported by both a male partner and a doula was significantly lower than the caesarean rate for women supported only by their partners.