So, you’ve chosen your health professional to support you during pregnancy and birth- maybe a midwife, a doctor, an obstetrician or a combination of all three. So why would you want to hire a doula as well, many people ask? Doula Lucy Barrett from Birthing Your Way explains the benefits that are possible.
For those who don’t know, a doula is a woman who gives support, help, and advice to another woman during pregnancy and during and after the birth. The reasons to hire a doula can vary. You might be a first-time mum who wants a little extra guidance, or maybe your family live interstate or overseas and you’d love a bit more support. Perhaps you’re looking for help putting together a birth plan and feel you could benefit from additional information about pregnancy and birth, to help you confidently make more informed choices.
How the role of a doula works
- A doula’s sole purpose is to provide physical, emotional, and educational support during labour and birth without taking on anything the medically trained staff are there to do. A doula works in birth centres, private and public hospitals and at homebirths in conjunction with midwives – but never as the sole carer at a birth.
- The role of the doula encompasses the non-clinical aspects of care.Women have complex needs during childbirth. In addition to the safety of modern obstetrical care and the love and companionship provided by their partners or family, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualised care based on their circumstances and preferences.
- Doulas have been actively supporting women in labour for a very long time, well before it was the formalised role that it is today. As a result of positive word of mouth (and the need for increased support), doulas are fast growing in popularity.
- Doctors and midwives are often happy to have doulas working with them. Medical-care providers are watching out for so many aspects of the mother’s and baby’s clinical care that they aren’t necessarily able to provide the emotional support a woman may desire in labour.
- A doula can be a personal resource guide. Well before labour even begins, a doula can help an expectant mum wade through the copious amount of pregnancy advice and figure out what’s best for her. Of course, a mum could search online for answers to her questions or ask her doctor, but doulas are more hands-on than that. They offer advice in a personal, nonclinical way, and they can help answer questions that are specific to an individual’s pregnancy.
How doulas give YOU the power.
- They focus on you. Midwives are typically looking after many mothers at once and delivery suites are frequently very busy. If you have an obstetrician booked to deliver your baby – they’ll be there for just that – the delivery! Of course, this is a critical moment of the birth but there are often many hours that precede it. A doula will be with you for the duration. She’ll either travel with you to your chosen birth place or meet you there when your labour is establishing. She’ll get you settled, setting the room up and creating an environment that’s optimal to support labour. She’ll be there with you – right by your side – every step of the way.
- Having a doula can decrease a mother’s labouring time and improve the birth experience. If that’s not incentive to consider getting a doula, who knows what is! A doula can help a mother-to-be feel less anxious and that sense of calm can often lead to a safer labour and birth.There are many other benefits of having a doula present: a lower rate of C-sections, less use of epidurals and other interventions, and more satisfaction with the overall birth experience as well as increased rates of breastfeeding.
- Doulas provide emotional support Having a doula may help a woman feel more empowered to make decisions on her own. Also, since she is being supported, she might experience less pain and ask for fewer interventions. The less stress a woman experiences, the faster labour should occur. Stress can inhibit the production of oxytocin, which is precisely the hormone what we want to promote!
- Doulas support you birthing partner, too. A doula’s support complements and reinforces the role of the birthing partner. Partners feel more enthusiastic and confident in their contribution to labour and birth when a doula acts as a facilitator, a gentle guide to supporting the connection between the birthing mother and her partner – allowing them to feel safe in the journey they are sharing towards becoming parents.
- Things can change quickly. Of course, birthing is not something we can control, it doesn’t always go as expected, and things can change quickly. At times like this, a doulas role is invaluable. It’s about ‘holding the space’ for the mother – giving her and her partner time to check-in and agree the next step. Always allowing a woman to feel heard and empowered. To know that she has had the opportunity to try what feels right for her and her baby. A doula can help explain what’s happening with compassion and without judgment or medical jargon, so it’s easier for everyone to understand.There have been many instances where mothers have been faced with challenges but knowing that their wishes are being advocated and validated by her birth team are what can make for a really positive birthing experience.