I often get met with blank faces when I tell people that I'm a doula so I thought I'd answer a number of FAQs here.....
A 'Dooola'?? What's That? A doula is a professional birth partner. The word ‘doula’ is Greek for servant and has come to mean ‘mothering the mother’ in this context. This care is traditionally offered in person but, more recently 'virtual' doula services are on the rise. Their care typically falls into 2 categories - birth doulas and postnatal doulas. Some doulas specialise in one type of care and some do it all.
Birth Doula In practical terms a birth doula helps you work through which birth options are right for you, helps you write your birth plan and then attends your birth, providing physical and emotional support. There's documented evidence that the continuous, trusted support of another woman in labour can reduce the need for interventions and can improve maternal outcomes post birth.
Postnatal Doula A postnatal doula's goal is to help you trust your instincts and support your choices. They can help with breastfeeding, give you tips and tricks to settle your baby, help you rest (by caring for your little one), make cups of tea, lend a listening ear, catch up with the household chores - she generally supports you and makes those early weeks a little easier. She should be someone that you're comfortable with and trust, and her support can transform your experience of early parenthood.
What Does a Doula Actually Do During Birth? Whatever you need! Different people need different things but some examples are:
- vocal encouragement
- making sure you understand what the medical staff are doing/saying
- position suggestions
- general comfort measures - heat packs, washcloths, even helping to tie up your hair
- support your partner - allow them to take breaks when needed, make sure they're coping well with what's happening, and direct their support of you if needed
- nothing - no really. I tell my clients that I might not always be busy during their birth, if they're working working beautifully together what's the point of putting myself in the middle of that? At that point I'm just another intervention. But they'll know that I'm in the room and ready to offer prompts, ideas or physical support if/when needed.
But What About My Partner? What Would They Do? A doula does not replace your partner. They're the ones that love you, understand you and are with you in this family adventure. Having a doula frees your partner up to be more emotionally available during the birth. They can maintain eye contact and encourage you much better if they're not providing the back massage during a contraction or fetching your water bottle! They are also better able to communicate with and understand your medical care providers if they're not your sole support.
What Sort of Births Does a Doula Support? I love this question, there's a big misconception that doulas are just for people who want to give birth by moonlight in the middle of the woods! Nope. We support ALL types of birth. Home, hospital, or birth centre - natural, managed or c-section, a doula is a valuable asset in any setting or circumstance. Not sure about that? Talk to any doula about the support she offers for the birth you're looking for.
So there you go - now you know what a doula is and what she does, x