What and who is a doula?
Alright mamas, you may have heard about someone called a doula? Some of you may have had them support you with your last baby? Some of you may not be quite sure of what they actually do? Well doulas are wonderful humans that hold a very special place in a womans maternity journey and this blog will tell you a bit more about what they do and how they can help you during your pregnancy, labour, and birth.
The term ‘Doula’ stems from greek origins with the meanings of ‘birth caregiver’. Nowadays, doulas offer amazing physical and emotional support for you mamas. They believe in ‘mothering the mother’. Doulas are trained/ accredited non-medical professionals who support you during your labour and birth. You meet your doula at some point during your pregnancy- usually close to the beginning. This allows for a continuous support system to flourish all the way to your birth mama. Having someone who you have gotten to know support you during your labour and birth shows for better outcomes such as a greater likelihood of having a normal vaginal birth and a lesser likelihood of having medical interventions. We women are powerful beings and to have someone who you trust empower you during one of the biggest moments of your life can make a difference.
Doulas are great listeners, they meet with you and really understand what your preferences are. With their wise knowledge they can advocate for your wants and needs and become a portal of communication (if that’s your choice) in the labour room. You are a strong mama, and your instincts stand most important above all- doulas can assist in helping these instincts remain strong during the beautiful journey of labour and birth. Doulas hold the space for you mama, they make sure that birth is kept peaceful and they create an environment that is calming and free of interruption. You were made to do this mama, a doula can help optimise the experience and keep birth de-medicalised.
Your doula can educate you during your pregnancy on various mechanisms that you can use during your labour and birth and when that time comes around they can work with you to maintain a calm and connected birthing space that has been tailored and individualised to you!
A doula encourages the support of your other support people in the birthing room- such as your partner. They work alongside your birthing partner and also provide support to them to reinforce their journey as a parent. Partners out there have said that they feel more confident to support mama during her birth with the help of their doula. They feel like they know the right things to do and say! Additionally, I believe that doulas are a perfect happy medium. They know you mama so well to understand what you want and need during labour, however, they are not a family member. So in stressful situations they can remain clear headed and calm the energy in room with their wise knowledge for the best outcomes for both mama and bub.
What other tasks can my doula help me with?
Remaining on call 24 hours a day when you are close to your birth mama. When you go into labour, your doula will be there.
Creating a birth preference - verbal and written. All your preferences will be well thought through prior to your birth.
Debriefing previous births- talking about why we want all these amazing things mama!
Massage and comfort measures during your birth. Mama, this can include non-pharmacological forms of pain relief such as water immersion
Keeping the environment calm and peaceful, eg. dim lighting, aromatherapy, music.
Suggesting and enabling positioning that can optimise a physiological birth for you mama.
Assisting you with your thought process when making decisions. However the final choice will always be yours mama. Doulas can help you weigh up all options
Talking through the tough times where you feel like ‘you can’t do it anymore’. BIG emotional support.
Mama you should talk to your doula when you meet and find out what they can do for you and what is best for you. Always remember though, while a doula makes an amazing support person, they are generally not medically trained and your midwife or doctor will be the one to advise on important medical concerns or choices.
Other types of doulas
Not only are there birthing doulas out there, in some places, there are postnatal doulas that can help you out mama after bub is born. They help with things such as breastfeeding support, baby settling techniques, correct ways of baby wearing and debriefing after your birth. Your birthing doula may not offer this service, but there are specialised doulas that can help in the postpartum. Additionally, there are doulas that can help mamas in one of the most hard and difficult moments of life. Stillbirth doulas assist mama in her transition to parenthood and support families with grieving.
How can I find a doula?
Mama, if your friends or family have used a doula, talk to them! Word of mouth is powerful and you can really discuss how their doula enhanced their birthing experience. However mama, if you have never met anyone who has used a doula, talk to your midwife or medical professional, they may have some great local suggestions. Another fantastic place that all you Australian mamas can find a doula is through this website: https://findadoula.com.au/
Some doulas charge per hour, whereas others may incorporate a flat fee. Mama, you and your partner should discuss various options and go with the doula that you feel is right for you! Remember to always make sure that you are comfortable and feel a warm and welcomed energy by the beautiful doula that you choose to support you. Pregnancy, birth and beyond is a special and life-changing moment that can be empowered and magnified by the amazing work that doulas do. Doulas provide infinite support, actively listen, communicate with a warm and women-centred mantra. As a midwife I love working hand in hand with amazing doulas - who understand and support my role as a midwife, in making medical decisions and supporting a family through such an amazing journey.
Birth images by Melissa Jean