Doula (Doo-lah) comes from the Greek word meaning woman who serves.
The modern day Doula supports women and their partners during pregnancy, throughout the birth process in the hospital or birth centre, and during the postnatal period.
A Doula provides three types of support:
• General informational support
• Emotional support
• Physical support
A Doula is not a midwife, or a medical practitioner, but is a valuable member of the birth team. Doulas DO NOT provide medical, nursing, midwifery or any therapeutic care, nor do they comment on, interpret or judge this care but they do make a great deal of difference to the birth outcome.
"Continuous labour support reduces a woman's likelihood of having pain medication, increases her satisfaction and chances for 'spontaneous' birth, and has no known risks . Supportive care during labour may involve emotional support, information, and comfort measures. Such care may enhance normal labour processes and thus reduce the need for obstetric intervention. Women who received continuous labour support were less likely to use pain medications and were more likely to be satisfied and to give birth 'spontaneously' (with neither caesarean nor vacuum nor forceps). In general, labour support was more effective when it was provided by women who were not part of the hospital staff" Continuous support for women during childbirth. Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr G J, Sakala C
The role of a Doula
As a Doula I would meet with clients a minimum of four times at their home or in my clinic. These antenatal visits prepared the way for the best labour and birth for each individual. During these sessions I would supply information to broaden childbirth education and we would get to know each other. At our first meeting I would give a comprehensive information pack. Additional material based on specific needs would include journal articles, books and videos and any items that may have been requested from the Confident Birth library. I made the effort to include a wide variety of evidence based information that gave unbiased views of issues concerning pregnancy and birth.
I would discuss and demonstrate non-medical pain relief methods such as massage, heat, visualisation, aromatherapy, music and water therapy. Included in our meetings would be the opportunity to enjoy guided meditation and relaxation sessions.
I firmly believe that my job was to serve the client and that only the client knew the best birth options for herself.
As knowledge grew clients would become more confident in deciding on birth preferences and could talk with me about the type of birth they wanted. I would offer suggestions about comfort measures and strategies to support physical and emotional wellbeing. When a women went onto labour I would meet at her home, or chosen birth place, and stay throughout labour and provide support as planned. I would not leave until the baby was born and the mother was comfortable.
Doulas will have their own individual ways of working, and choosing the right one for you is important. Birth is an intimate event and you, and your partner, need to feel comfortable with all the members of your team. I advise interviewing a few doulas and selecting one that you 'click' with.
A doula's overall aim is to help you to achieve the best birth for you - whether a natural birth, a medically assisted birth or an elective caesarean birth.
"Women's strongest feelings [in terms of their birthings], positive and negative, focus on the way they were treated by their caregivers." -Annie Kennedy & Penny Simkin