A doula* is a companion who is there for support of the mum to be and partner, by providing continuous care before, during and after birth. This support can be in the form of information (by sharing knowledge and signposting sources of further information), physical support (by providing massage, acupressure, guidance with movement, etc), and emotional support (by actively listening to your concerns and also your hopes, and by being there for you with an open mind).
*also known as a birth companion, birth coach, or post-birth supporter (but I prefer the term doula!)
The simple presence of a doula during labour can support you in feeling prepared for (and excited about) your birth. A doula can help you feel safe and empowered during the birth, enabling you to make the right decisions for you and your baby, and to feel confident in your body and your ability to birth.
A doula can also provide support for and empower your partner in being an active birth partner, helping him feel prepared and confident about being there for you as you birth your baby.
Finally, a doula can also be of (practical as well as emotional) support when the baby arrives and while you learn about your baby, by providing support with feeding (both your baby and yourself), by looking after siblings, and by being there for you as process everything.
Overall, having a doula can aid you in having a positive and wholesome birth and postnatal experience. As far as research is concerned, there is evidence to show that having a doula can minimise the likelihood of having an induction, caesarean or an instrumental birth, and that it can reduce the need for pain medication or epidurals during birth. Further research has also revealed that births supported by a doula tend to be shorter.
Finally, there is evidence to show that doulas have a positive impact on breastfeeding rates, and on maternal mental health with lower incidence of postnatal depression.
- Are you like a private midwife?
Not at all. Doulas are non-medical, non-clinical companions. We don’t diagnose or treat. We work alongside (and not instead of) midwives to provide the best support and care for you, and we are also there to help you navigate the medical system, whilst advocating for your wishes and hopes.
Doulas can however be described as ‘lay midwives’, in that we are guardians of birth as a powerful, beautiful transition to be experienced and celebrated, with love, support and care. In a way, we are keepers of ancient knowledge and techniques that have been used for centuries by and for birthing women.
- Ah. So do I need to be a hippie, new age, boho kinda gal to have a doula?
Nope. You don’t need to be anything to have a doula, other than yourself! No two women are the same, and no two births are the same.
There’s a doula for everyone – that’s a core belief of the doula network I’m a part of.
I’m really happy to adapt to your needs and wishes, and to what you’re comfortable with. You can dip your toe in the water of the various options we can explore together, or you can jump in! It’s entirely up to you!
- Do you only go to homebirths?
I go to all births, regardless of where they take place. I’m comfortable in homebirths, birth centres, hospitals. It’s your choice!