What is a Doula and Why You Should Have One

I know when I decided to do my doula training, most people I had talked to had never even heard of them! So what exactly do doulas do and how can we help?

“Doula” is a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant”. It is a non-medically trained person who is able to give support and guidance to women as they navigate, explore and prepare for birth and the post-partum period. They strive to assist the mother to achieve the birth they hope for.

A doula is not meant to replace the role of the father or birth partner who provides the mother with love, comfort and protection. A doula, however, supports the father and the mother differently to achieve the common goal: to Birth Sweet.

All couples deserve the opportunity to have a positive birth experience. How a woman is treated during her pregnancy and labour has a huge impact on the way she remembers the events and feels about them afterwards. Similarly, it has a big impact on her post-partum emotions and wellbeing. My job is to make sure that no matter what happens, your birth is a memorable, positive and joyous occasion to celebrate the arrival of your little one (or ones!)

A Doula Can:

Provide support to the mother and their partner

A doula is there to support you (and your partner) physically and emotionally during your pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. It is our role to support you to make choices that are right for you, your partner and your baby. Therefore we do not to encourage you to have the birth we think we would opt for.

doula and client are meeting during an antenatal visit/ appointment

We are there to assist you with any emotional roadblocks during your pregnancy or that could arise during labour.

During labour, we support to create a birth environment that encourages relaxation and the flow of hormones to positively impact your birth. These tools will be planned with you and practiced throughout your pregnancy.

I am there to provide continuous physical, emotional and informational support before, during and after childbirth.

Help you with your birth plan

Doulas are experienced in birth and should be able to provide up-to-date research and information to assist you to make informed, educated decisions about your birth. We can assist you to prepare your birth plan as well as problem solve and prepare emotionally for the arrival of your baby as well as provide support during labour to help you safely deliver your baby according to your birth plan.

Doulas can assist with pain management strategies and continue to optimise your environment to ensure you are relaxed as possible during labour. We can also suggest with positions to manage contractions and for birthing your baby.

Assist with communication between you and the birth team

Often it is overwhelming talking to medical professionals. Doulas are fantastic listeners and communicators. We can therefore bridge the gap in communication between you and your birth team. This is especially helpful when you are presented with a lot of information quickly. Doulas can give you knowledge of how to ask appropriate questions to get enough information to reach an informed decision, rather than a snap decision in the moment based on fear.

A Doula Can’t:

Replace the role of your birth partner

A doula does not replace the role of the birth partner and consequently cannot make your decisions for you. However, we can provide you with research, information and assist you to ask the right questions to better understand the information and advice being presented to you.

Provide medical care

As doulas are not medically trained we cannot provide any type of medical care including;

  • Provide medical advice or diagnosis
  • Deliver your baby
  • Vaginal exams
  • Baby heart-rate monitoring
A lady is giving birth in a hospital setting. Her birth partner, midwife and doula are present.

Why you should consider having a doula:

There is more and more research showing that doulas can make a difference.

In 2017, there was a review of many studies and research papers (Cochrane review) that concluded that all women should have continuous support during labour as it improves outcomes for both mother and baby.

“Continuous support from a person who is present solely to provide support, is not a member of the woman’s own network, is experienced in providing labour support, and has at least a modest amount of training (such as a doula), appears beneficial.”

Cochrane review (2017)

These benefits include:

  • More likely to have a spontaneous labour;
  • Less likely to have synthetic oxytocin;
  • Less likely to ask for an epidural or drugs;
  • Less likely to be dissatisfied with their birth;
  • More likely to have shorter labours;
  • Less likely to have a caesarean;
  • Less likely to have an instrumental birth (forceps & vacuum);
  • Less likely to have a baby with low Apgar scores.

It is thought that these benefits are because a doula is able to focus primarily on the woman’s needs during labour and birth. Her sole purpose is to support the woman and provide a calming environment.

How to find a doula:

If you’d like to know more about what I can help you with, please get in touch! We can discuss what your needs are and how I can help in an obligation free initial meeting.

Thinking a doula may be for you but you live too far away or just don’t get the right vibe from me? No worries! The Doula Network Australia and Doula Training Academy both have a registry of doulas to find one in your area that suits you best!

References:

Hodnet et al (2012) Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth

Cochrane review- Bohren et al (2017) Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth (review)

Rebecca Dekker (2019) Evidence On: Doulas

About Me

I’m Sam Zieg – doula, physiotherapist and mum of two beautiful girls! I love birth and my goal is to help women to love it just as much. Follow socials or join my mailing list to stay up to date!

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