What is a Doula
The word “doula” /ˈduːlə/, from ancient Greek, means: “A woman who serves” also referred to as a birth companion or post birth supporter. It is used to refer to a trained and experienced professional. A Doula provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to both the Mother and her partner. Support through pregnancy, labour, birth and post-delivery.
The Role of a Doula
A doula is able to maintain an objective viewpoint and provides assistance in empowering the couple to make informed decisions. A doula is not a doctor, nurse or midwife and is not involved in any medical decisions. Through study and experience, a doula is knowledgeable of the biological processes of labour and childbirth. A Doula is trained in, and has an understanding of, the usual medical interventions that may arise. This enables her to explain to parents what is happening around them so that some tension or anxiety may be relieved. She forms a bridge between the medical staff and the parents in all aspects of the birth experience.
The doula becomes the mother’s voice during labour when the mother is unable to express herself. She makes sure that the mother’s needs and parents’ wishes are respected. She creates an environment where the mother feels secure. Supports with the assurance that the doula will remain with her throughout the entirety of labour and birth. The mother therefore feels cared for and supported in one of life’s most paramount moments.
Research shows that women who are supported by a doula in labour are:
- 28% less likely to have a caesarean birth
- 31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin to speed labour
- 9% less likely to use any pain medication
- 34% less likely to rate their childbirth experience negatively
Ultimately, the experience of birth is unique to every woman. Understanding your options in advance can make all the difference.
- Deciding on your preferences,
- Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses,
- Having someone to guide you through the ups and downs before, during and after birth,
- comforting touch,
- warm baths/showers (will need to be checked with facility due to water restrictions),
- encouraging mobility,
- promoting adequate fluid intake and output
Some medical aids / hospital plans are now covering costs to use a labour doula. Either on their “Maternity Program” or through “Medical Savings”. Contact your medical aid to enquire about this offering.
Medical aids which provide cover for Doulas are:
How do doctors and other medical professionals feel about Doulas?
When it comes to a doula trained by WOMBS we find that the majority of doctors and other staff find them to be an asset to the team. It is for this reason that some facilities will insist that your doula be registered with WOMBS. However, there have been cases (not just in South Africa) where untrained doulas have over-stepped their role in a birth. This has led to all doulas becoming banned from a facility. At WOMBS we devote a good proportion of our training to teaching doulas how to work well with other staff members so as to form part of a team.
A WOMBS doula will know that she may not do things like make decisions for you, speak to doctors or nurses on your behalf or refuse/give consent for procedures. Again this comes back to understanding the role of a doula as one who supports the mother & father/birth partner through the process, unlike a Midwife or Doctor who will make medical decisions or interventions.
What if my doctor or midwife doesn’t work with Doulas?
If your doctor or midwife does not work with a doula then it is important to find out why this is. If it is due to past experience that was negative, then please contact WOMBS and we would be more than happy to arrange for a representative to speak with your care provider or provide them with more information on how we operate.
What if your doctor/midwife simply does not wish to allow you to have additional support, then its important to ask yourself if this is really the right person to be delivering your baby.
You need to think about what motivation this care provider might have to not want an experienced support person with you. To help you explore your options and make informed decisions.
A Doula serves both mom and her partner.
Works in ANY birthing environment and supports moms in any type of birth plan (even cesarean births).
It’s easy to explain that a Doula can provide prenatal & postpartum support and not only labour support.
“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” – John Kennell, M.D., pediatrician