What is a doula?
A Doula is a woman trained in labour assistance and/or postpartum care who supports mothers and their families through the complex emotional and physical transitions of pregnancy, labour, delivery and postpartum.
A Doula is a trusted woman who provides continuous care from the prenatal through the postpartum period. A Doula provides emotional support, reassurance and physical comfort measures to the labouring woman.
A Doula assists partners to participate at their comfort level, in ways that help the labouring woman.
A Doula provies information to aid in decision making.
A Doula facilitates communication between the woman, her partner and health care provider.
Your Doula will join you when you feel the need for extra support. She will stay with you until after the baby is born. As you labour she remains close by, answering questions, offering encouragement and suggesting ways to manage pain. She may use relaxation, massage, body positions, hot or cold packs, baths or showers, relaxed breathing and attention focusing techniques to help you. She will support and reassure your partner, often supporting him in assisting you with comfort measures.
Partners are often concerned that a Doula will somehow replace them. They quickly find out however, that the Doula helps enrich their role by supporting and helping them to participate at their own comfort level. The Doula provides experience, knowledge, guidance and helps to create fond birth memories.
After baby is born
The Doula will help you through the postpartum procedures and with early Breastfeeding. Over the next few days, she will keep in touch with you and meet you again to review your birth. She may meet with you for a final postpartum meeting between two and four weeks after birth.
Benefits of Doula Support
Doula support during labor and birth may result in :
· Decrease in requests for cesarean sections
· Decrease in length of labor
· Decrease in use of forceps
· Decrease in use of oxytocin
· Decrease in requests for epidurals
· Decrease in use of pain medication
· Improved breastfeeding
· Decreased postpartum depression
· Greater maternal satisfaction
· Better mother-infant bonding
Recent studies have found that when Doulas attend birth, labours are shorter, there are fewer complications and there is less need for oxytocin to speed labour, for forcepts or vacuum extractor deliveries or for pain medication, epidurals or cesarean deliveries. Babies are also healthier and they breastfeed more easily. Furthermore, women express greater satisfaction with their birth experience and an enhanced relationship with their partner.
Questions to ask
What training have you had?
What is your philosophy about childbirth and supporting women and their partners through labour?
When do you try to join women in labour?
Do you come to our home or meet us at the hospital?
What is your availability for contact by phone or in person before and after the birth?
Do you work with one or more backup Doulas? May we meet them?
What is your fee?
When you meet the Doula pay particular attention to your personal perceptions of the Doula. Is she kind, warm and enthusiastic? Is she knowledgeable? Does she communicate well? Is she a good listener? Is she comfortable with your choices? Do you feel comfortable with her? You may want to interview more that one Doula, but if you like the first one you meet, you may not need to look further.