The word 'doula' comes from the Greek word for a woman servant. It is now commonly used to describe woman who assists other women in labour, breastfeeding and newborn care. Doulas have been around forever as women have been supporting each other in that powerful rite of passage that birth is. At least this is how I see it. Perhaps, they didn't call themselves doulas, but nevertheless were helping each other, offering their presence, knowledge, wisdom... and they still do.
What is a Doula's role?
A Doula doesn't have medical qualifications or background and so she's not there to replace a midwife or a doctor. Her foremost role is providing emotional support to the mother-to-be and those who're accompanying her. A Doula will share her knowledge and will do her best to prepare mum-to-be or a couple for this amazing experience. She'll try to strengthen or awaken faith in birth as being something that can be blissful and empowering.
Qualms and doubts that often are associated with birth, for most of the time, come from facing the unknown. With Mother Nature on your side, by listening to your body and following your intuition, the only thing that the birthing woman needs is to feel safe and be in a quiet environment – something that your Doula will help you to create.
For some women it's enough to feel the calm and gentle presence of a Doula. Depending on your needs your Doula may be holding your hand, wiping your forehead, giving you a soft massage, ensuring that there's water when you're thirsty, whispering words of encouragement into your ears.
A Doula's presence based on the mutual trust and continuity of that relationship can give the mum-to-be much needed feeling of safety, mentioned above. We'll get to know each other during the pregnancy. Choosing a doula you know that will be there when you need her. Even if only to have a chat or when needing reassurance that everything is the way it should be. In case you decide to give birth surrounded by people who're close to you, your doula will take care of them too so they could support you the best they can.
Immediately after the birth, the Doula's role is to ensure the best possible conditions for the new mum, baby and closest people so that they can greet each other in this world, so that mum could start breastfeeding if she chooses to. Apart from the emotional support provided by your Doula, she'll also take care of some of the practicalities like making sure the mum has something to eat. She'll answer your questions, and in case this is your first baby – there might be quite a few of them.
A Postnatal Doula can support you a bit longer (few days or weeks) to help parents in a gentle transition into their new role. If there are already children she may take care of them too, to give you more time to get to know your new baby. Or get a quick nap!
I am really enthusiastic about natural birth (intervention free), being open at the same time to various visions and needs of mums-to-be/parents and the way the birth itself will unfold. I promise to be there for you being fully supportive of your choices.
Advantages of doula's services
According to the findings of the research carried out by Klaus, Kennel and Klaus "Mothering mothers" from 1993, a Doula's presence can have a significant impact on birth. It states the following:
- Shortens first-time labour by an average of 2 hours
- Decreases the chance of caesarean section by 51%
- Decreases the need for pain medication by 36%
- Reduces need for forceps delivery by 57%
- Helps fathers participate with confidence
- Increases success in breastfeeding