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!
Compared with women who have no support in labour, women who have support from a companion who is neither a member of the hospital staff nor a friend or family member are:
- 28% less likely to have a ceasarean section
- 31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin to speed labour
- 9% less likely to use any pain medication
- 34% less likey to rate their childbirth experience negatively*
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.
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.
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."
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