What is a doula?
In short, a doula is a woman who provides non-medical support through out the perinatal period. All doulas trained by WOMBS are also mothers themselves and have firsthand experience of many of the challenges that pregnancy, birth and post-partum bring.
The care and support a doula provides can be broken down into three aspects:
Informational Support means that she has a wealth of knowledge and experience to give you advice on pregnancy niggles, making choices about where, how and with whom to give birth, and all the various issues that can arrise around recovering from the birth, breastfeeding and caring for your newborn. During pregnancy there are often things that happen with your body that may be small and may concern you, but you don’t want to bother your doctor in case it is something normal. A Doula can provide you with the reassurance you need, or let you know if it’s something you should phone your doctor about. The same is true for dealing with breastfeeding or newborn issues where if it’s something she can’t help you with herself, she will immediately refer you to the right professional.
When in labour, your doula is also your guide for making decisions. She will never speak on your behalf to staff, or make decisions for you because she understands that you are the person who needs to live with the outcome of any decision that you make. A Doula’s role is simply to offer suggestions of alternatives, or to explain procedures you may be unsure about and to help make sure you fully understand the risks and benefits of any medical intervention you opt to have.
A doula will always support your choice, no matter what it is, as she knows that what a mother needs most during childbirth is to be loved, supported and feel she has control over her body and her baby. All of these things help ensure that the birth of your baby is not only safe but a good experience as well.
Emotional Support is something that Doulas can provide that is invaluable to the mother and also her partner. In a culture that seems to determined to tell women only the worst stories about birth, a doula can provide a positive perspective. This can help the mother to reduce her anxiety around birth and build up her confidence in herself and her body’s ability to give birth. The doula also takes the pressure off the father or birth partner who will be dealing with their own emotions while still needing to provide calm, loving support for the mother. The birth partner can feel free to do something as simple as take a bathroom break without leaving the mother unsupported. After the birth the mother may find it quite an emotional process as she adjusts to caring for a newborn and a doula can help support her through this. A Doula is also careful to look for warning signs of Post-natal depression and ensure that the right help is received as soon as possible.
Physical Supportis mostly limited to the labour and birth. A Doula can recommend different positions that help relieve the intensity of labour and also help ensure a smooth birth. She can also offer comfort measures such as massage, aromatherapy, homeopathy or something as simple as holding a hand and whispering words of encouragement in your ear. She will also be able to make suggestions for a c-section birth and help with breastfeeding afterwards, which often can prove quite challenging with the discomfort from surgery.
What a doula does NOT do
- Perform medical tasks, such as checking blood pressure, fetal heart tones, or cervical dilation. I do not have the training or the license to perform any medical procedures.
- Make decisions for you. I will help you get the information you need, and make sure you have the opportunity to make an informed decision. I may suggest questions to ask, or ask you if you would like time alone to discuss issues before making a decision. I will also remind you if a departure from your birth plan is suggested.
- Speak to the staff on your behalf. I will discuss concerns with you and suggest options, but only you / or your partner can inform the staff of your wishes.