A doula is a woman who provides emotional, practical and informational support before, during and after childbirth.
Why is there a need for doulas?
Midwives are unfortunately under a lot of pressure and women often tell me how rushed their antenatal appointments feel. While midwives will ensure the health and well-being of both you and your baby during pregnancy, a doula will give you several hours of one-to-one time to talk through any issues that might be concerning you, as well as information to enable you to form your birth preferences.
During labour, your midwife is likely to have other women to attend to and you may have more than one midwife if there is a change in shift. A doula will provide continuous support, regardless of the duration of your labour. In addition, if you plan to give birth in hospital, a doula will provide support during the early stage of labour before you are ready to transfer from home.
Research has shown that having a doula present at a birth:
- Shortens first-time labour by an average of 2 hours.
- Decreases the chance of caesarean section by 50%.
- Decreases the need for pain medication.
- Helps fathers participate with confidence.
- Increases success in breastfeeding.
(“Mothering the Mother”, Klaus, Kennell & Klaus, 1993)
What about my partner?
A doula’s role is not to replace that of your partner, if you have one. Your partner loves and knows you better than anyone else and it is the love that helped make your baby that will be a crucial support to you during labour.
It can however be difficult to see your partner in pain, to have to update medical staff when your partner needs you to help her through a contraction, to feel under pressure to remember what you learnt in antenatal classes and to have to leave your partner alone while you go to the toilet, top up your parking time or grab a coffee. A doula will provide that extra support for both of you.
What does a doula not do?
- A doula will be familiar with medical terms and conditions associated with pregnancy, labour and birth, but she is not a medical professional. She will not perform any clinical tasks such as vaginal examinations or fetal heart monitoring.
- A doula does not offer advice but provides information and supports you to make your own decisions.
- A doula does not judge you for the decisions you make.