What is a Doula?
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Pregnant women, birthing women, women with newborns/children have had support from more experienced women since the beginning of time. The word “doula” means “a woman who serves” in Greek; a doula is a professional who provides physical, emotional and informational support for mothers and directs them to the right resources if needed. Most importantly, her support, care and advocacy empower women and their partners along their life-changing pregnancy and birth journey.
What do Doulas do?
Birth Doulas not only help parents achieve a positive and safe birth experience, they:
· Meet and form prenatal relationship with parents
· Assist in creating the parents’ birth vision/birth plan
· Provide continuous emotional, physical (non-medical) and informational support throughout pregnancy, labour & birth
· Work with your partner during labour to keep both parents calm, supported and nurtured
· Suggest different labouring and birthing positions during the course of labour
· Boost parents’ confidence allowing them to be empowered when voicing their needs and wants to the medical team
· Advocate the parents’ choices
· Aid with initial breastfeeding and questions
· Make referrals to medical professionals upon requests/as needed
Benefits of having a Doula
Research has shown that births with a doula present have:
· Reduced caesarean rates
· Lowered requests for epidural and/or any pain medications
· Shorter length of labour
· Fewer use of vacuum and/or forceps extractions
· Better birth experiences
· Higher rates of successful breastfeeding mothers
· Reduced time in neonatal intensive care units
The Doctor vs the Midwife vs the Nurse vs the Doula, what are their roles?
The doctor (OBGYN), midwife, nurse-midwife make up your medical team, they take care of all your medical needs.
The OBGYN and midwife will be the ones who deliver your baby. The midwife usually shows up during active or late labour/during transition and delivers your baby but the OBGYN usually only turns up just to deliver the baby.
Midwives, like OBGYNs, handle all your antental care, they will also try to delivery a baby with as little interventions as possible. Should you require a caesarean or have a complicated pregnancy, the OBGYN will step in.
In short, midwives handle low-risk pregnancy and births and they promote natural births.
If you go to the hospital for your delivery, you are most likely already have selected an OBGYN to deliver your baby. Before the doctor shows up to help deliver your baby, the labour ward nurses are the ones who care for you. They handle all administrative work, vaginal examinations, fetal monitoring, IV/antibiotics drips, mother’s vitals, etc. Most of the time, nurses are monitoring a few women at any one time and therefore they will not be able to offer consistent care. You do not get a choice of nurses, it depends on who is on duty and throughout your labour. Additionally, the people taking care of you might change when their shift ends.
A doula is someone who is with you from the very beginning – she meets you and works with you during your pregnancy - before you ever begin labor - and is by your side throughout the labour. She does not deliver your baby and she does not do anything medical. She is there to provide comfort measures, suggest a change in position, makes sure you eat and drink enough, and offer suggestions to your partner for how he/she can best be there for you.
Basically, a doula is the perfect complement to your medical team!
How is the Doula any different from my partner?
Doulas usually work in tandem with your partner, as an extra pair of helping hands is always needed during labour and birth! With the Doula's support, the mother is never left alone when the partner needs to eat, nap, use the bathroom, or just get a breath of fresh air.
Most parents find that the most valuable benefit of hiring a doula is that they can draw from the doula’s extensive experience in pregnancy, birth, and baby care. The wealth of information the doula has collected from attending numerous births can prove to be an invaluable resource for for parents.
While your partner might know you inside and out, the doula knows birth inside and out!
What is the role of a Postpartum Doula?
A Postpartum Doula helps the new family in the first few days/weeks. In ancient times, a community of women would typically support new mothers just after their birth. In modern times, after a few days in hospital, mothers are sent home alone to face the challenges of parenthood and postnatal physical recovery. A postpartum doula helps recreate the community village of women.
Her assistance can include:
· Offering breastfeeding support (Latching/Positioning Help)
· Assisting in Mother-Baby and Father-Baby bonding
· Helping parents with baby cues, feeding, changing diapers, basic newborn care, bathing and soothing the baby
· Offering non-judgemental emotional support & physical recovery tips to the mother
· Helping to build confidence in both parents to take on their new roles
· Giving referrals to practical resources online or to professionals if needed (postpartum massage, support groups, paediatricians, chiropractors, baby goods, helpful apps, acupuncture, TCM, night nannies, etc.)
· Processing the birth experience, screening for post-partum depression
Studies have shown that families with a postpartum doula enjoy:
· Easier transition periods for the whole family
· Higher success rate for breastfeeding
· Lower Postpartum Depression in Mothers