What is a doula?
The word doula originates from the Greek language, and loosely translated means "woman who serves". In traditional times, this role would usually be filled by female family members such as a grandmother or aunt who had experience attending births. In modern times this evolved into a profession, as most women do not have friends or family members who have experience assisting in childbirth. A doula is a trained support person for the pregnant, laboring and postpartum woman and her partner. She provides emotional, informational and physical support and guidance to help new parents navigate the childbearing year so they can be confident and prepared to make informed choices for labor and birth. She works in a non-clinical way, to compliment the care you receive from your primary caregiver (your doctor or midwife).
Why hire a doula?
The benefits of having a doula at your birth are well documented. Research has shown that the presence of a doula can reduce labor time and lowers the rate of c-sections and epidurals. Women can also benefit from fewer interventions and increased rates of breastfeeding. A doula is an amazing resource for the laboring mom, and also provides the partner with support and encouragement, so that he/she can be fully present during the labour and at the moment of their baby's birth.
A doula works for you, not your caregivers or hospital, so she always has your wishes and interests in mind. She can be a wonderful addition to your pregnancy and birth journey. No matter what your wishes and desires for birth, a doula will respect and honor your choices in order for you to feel supported and empowered. Your doula can help you process the myriad of choices you may face and help you navigate the childbearing year so that you are confident and empowered.
Not only will your doula provide comfort measures, help you manage pain and help calm your anxieties, she will be a constant support throughout labour. There are no shift changes for a doula! Many women also find a doula to be helpful in communicating their wishes to the medical staff, which can sometimes be overwhelming for a couple, especially for those having their first baby. Having medical interventions explained clearly, as well as knowing the risks and benefits is something I often assist couples with as well.
Doulas are not only for home births or for women wishing to have a natural birth. Whether you are delivering at a hospital, birthing center, at home, with an epidural, planning for a natural birth or need to have a scheduled cesarean birth, a doula can be an amazing resource for the birthing woman and her partner.