A Doula is a birth support person that attends women during pregnancy and the birth of their baby, offering support to enhance the birth experience. A doula has extensive childbirth knowledge and experience, and uses this knowledge to provide emotional support, physical comfort measures and information to a woman and her partner. Doula ( pronounced 'doo-la') is a Greek word meaning woman's maid or servant. In recent years, the term has come to describe a woman who supports a birthing mother during labour. A doula will perform the following tasks:
Provide emotional support
Use natural comfort measures such breathing, relaxation, movement, positioning
Gives clear unbiased information
Continuously reassures and comforts the mother (a doula never leaves the mother’s side)
Advocates for the mother and helps facilitate communication between the mother and care provider
Assists your partner as well (gives them bathroom breaks for example)
Ensures mother is adequately hydrated and nourished.
Doulas do not perform medical tasks, they are present only for your physical comfort, emotional support and advocacy. Most Doulas are self-employed, therefore they are working for you and not your caregiver at the hospital/birth centre. This also means a doula is available to support you in the environment of your choice, whether that be home, hospital or birth centre.
Photo credit: Jen from the Heart of Motherhood
Benefits of Having the Support of a Doula
The benefits are overwhelming. As well as feeling supported, nurtured and safe there are other physical and emotional benefits for your whole family. A recent study ( Hodnett, 2012) compared the outcome of births with a doula compared to other continuous support (partner, midwife,family member). The results included:
31% decrease in the use of Syntocin
28% decrease in the risk of C-section
12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience.
Doulas are an effective form of pain relief (Hofmeyr, 1991). Statistically, women experience less pain when a doula is present during their labour and birth.
Together with your partner and healthcare provider, a doula is a fantastic addition to your support team, ensuring you have the uttermost love and support during this special journey.