What is a doula?
A doula, or birth attendant, is a woman
offering non medical support and information to parents in pregnancy,
childbirth and the post natal period. 'Doula' is a Greek word that has
come to mean "woman's servant".
A doula mothers the mother!
A doulas primary and unique role is to encourage the birthing woman's self confidence. Whilst every member of the birthing team play an integral role in assisting the woman to birth her baby, the doula is there to be the mother's constant companion and is comfortable and confident with the birthing process which is not only valuable for the birthing woman, it is very beneficial for the woman's partner or even her chosen friend or relative who may also be present.
The doula is knowledgeable in comfort measures such as relaxation breathing, massage and positioning, managing labour sensations using water, hot packs and aromas. Doulas specialise in non-medical skills and do not perform clinical tasks, such as vaginal exams or foetal heart rate monitoring. Doulas do not diagnose medical conditions, offer second opinions, or give medical advice. A doula can help a mother find positions that are most comfortable and effective, protect her privacy and create an atmosphere to prevent distractions, pressure or fears during the process and natural rhythm of each woman's own labour experience.
Around Australia, there are a variety of situations in which people choose to give birth: for example the home (with private midwives), a birth centre, a labour ward, or a private hospital. A doula can support you anywhere you choose to have your baby.
According to research undertaken in the US, Klaus, Kennel and Klaus, authors of Mothering the Mother, "How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth" have identified the benefits of having a doula at your birth:
50% reduction in caesarean rate
25% shorter labour
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in oxytocin use
30% reduction in analgesia use
40% reduction in forceps delivery
Decreased incidence of postpartum depression
Greater maternal satisfaction
Better mother-infant interaction
By hiring a doula a mother ensures:
She has a skilled set of hands 'holding the space for her at home and/or in hospital'
She is surrounded by nurturing and caring energy
She has a reduced risk of unnecessary interventions
In the words from the video, Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices, by Suzanne Arms, "If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it."
Excellent interview with Australian Doula College Trainer Tammy Halliday, (she trained me) explaining what is a doula and what questions you should ask a doula when interviewing.