“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers – strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength” ~ B.K. Rothman
A doula, pronounced “doo la”, is also known as a birth companion and originates from the Ancient Greek word to mean female servant or slave.
Generally a female, she is a nonmedical person who assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth, as well as her partner and/or family by providing information, physical and emotional support. They provide continuous support during labour and when combined with the help provided from nurses, family, friends and doctors, is associated with improved maternal and foetal health and a variety of other benefits.
The overall goal of a doula is for the mother to feel safe, comfortable and informed of her choices. This complements the goal that midwives and doctors have, which is to ensure a safe delivery for mother and child. Doulas have no clinical role, duties or decision making.
The range of support provided by a doula during childbirth may include physical assistance and comfort, caring for the mother by providing food, drink and rest, emotional support, advocating the mother’s needs and rights and reminding future parents of all the information we discussed before the birth event.
The Birth Support page goes into further detail about all the ways that I help during childbirth. In addition, many birth doulas, including myself, offer postnatal support which can take many forms according each family’s needs. You can read more about my postnatal services here.
Research has shown having a doula present at birth:
- Shortens first-time labour by an average of 2 hours
- Decreases the chance of a caesarean section by 50%
- Decreases the need for pain medication
- Helps fathers participate with confidence
- Increases success in breastfeeding
- Decreases risk of PND
Source: “Mothering the Mother”, Klaus, Kennell & Klaus 1993.
What’s my interpretation of being a doula?
My role is to provide all the help in that list you’ve just read, but above all, to me it means that I am there to provide support. These words say it better than I ever could:
Support is unconditional. It is listening…not judging, not telling your own story.
Support is not offering advice…it is offering a handkerchief, a touch, a hug…caring.
We are here to help women discover what they are feeling…not to make the feelings go away.
We are here to help a woman identify her options…not to tell her what options to choose.
We are here to discuss steps with a woman…not to take the steps for her.
We are here to help a woman discover her own strength…not to rescue her and leave her still vulnerable.
We are here to help a woman discover she can help herself…not to take that responsibility for her.
We are here to help a woman learn to choose…not to make it unnecessary for her to make difficult choices.