What is a Doula?
The word “Doula” (pronounced “doola”) is a Greek word meaning “woman servant or caregiver”. More recently, it refers to someone who offers physical comfort, emotional, spiritual and informational support to a woman and her partner before, during and after childbirth. A Doula (also known as a birth attendant) usually a mother herself, “mothers the mother”; enabling a woman to have the most satisfying experience that she can, throughout pregnancy and into motherhood. This type of support allows the womans partner and family to relax and enjoy the experience too.
Doulas are trained professionals and experienced in childbirth, they have a good knowledge and awareness of female physiology, but they do not have a medical role or perform clinical tasks – A Doula does not take the place of the midwife or the doctor. She also does not make decisions for the couple, she does however, support them through the decision making process and provides balanced information so the couple can make their own decisions.
A doula is an invaluable part of the birth team in any setting, whether she works in a birth centre, in private and public hospitals or attending homebirths in conjunction with midwives and doctors – but never as the sole carer at birth. (Birthing without a midwife or doctor present is known as freebirthing however DoSA recommends birthing with a qualified midwife, or doctor). A Doula is employed by you and is available to serve you according to your agreement and contract.
There are two types of Doulas, Birth Doulas and Post-Natal Doulas, with many Doulas performing both roles. The Birth Doula is a unique part of the birthing team; she is hired independently by the birthing couple to serve the labouring woman. Doulas typically provide care at home during early labour, helping the couple decide when to leave for their birthplace. She helps provide comfort measures such as positions for active labour, massage, relaxation techniques, and visualisations. At the birthplace, the doula can help the birthing couple be aware of their options so they may make informed choices as the birth process progresses. The role of the Post-Natal Doula is to provide care and nurturing to the mother at home after childbirth which may include further breastfeeding support, light home duties, massage, emotional and physical support for the mother and so on. Post-Natal Doulas are particularly in demand; as support for new mothers has dwindled in our society and many women do not have the luxury of extended family help and support. Studies have shown that Post-Natal Doulas make a huge impact on the well-being of mothers.
What are the benefits of having a Doula?
According to research undertaken in the US, Klaus, Kennell and Klaus, authors of Mothering the Mother, “How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth” have identified the benefits of having a doula at your birth:
?? 50% reduction in caesarean rate
?? 25% shorter labour
?? 60% reduction in epidural requests
?? 40% reduction in oxytocin use
?? 30% reduction in analgesia use
?? 40% reduction in forceps delivery
?? Improved breastfeeding
?? Decreased incidence of postpartum depression
?? Greater maternal satisfaction
?? Better mother-infant interaction
By hiring a doula a mother ensures:
?? She has a skilled set of hands holding the space for her at home and/or in hospital
?? She is surrounded by nurturing and caring energy
?? She has a reduced risk of unnecessary interventions
In the words of Dr. John Kennell, “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”
What about the Father?
When a Doula is present during the labour and birth, fathers have reported feeling more at ease, enthusiastic and that their contribution to the labour and birth is meaningful and helpful. Not only have fathers reported higher levels of satisfaction after the birth, but mothers have reported feeling more satisfied with their partners role at the birth too. Doulas support complements and reinforces the fathers role.
How much does a Doula cost?
This varies greatly and is dependent on experience, where the Doula is located and what packages are on offer. A package offering pre and post-natal visits (generally around 2 hours long each) as well as the duration of the birth generally costs around $600-$900 for the more experienced Doula in South Australia. Inexperienced Doulas usually charge a much lower fee and most Doulas offer reduced rates for those in genuine need. You can also hire a Trainee Doula for $100 as they charge a minimal amount to cover any travelling costs. Many Doulas only attend 1-2 births a month, as many are mothers with young children and may have another occupation or study commitments. Finding last-minute childcare as well as spare time to do visits and attend births is a tricky balance for some, so its not something women do for monetary benefits, but passion.
Finding a Doula
If you would like to have a Doula support you, DoSA (Doulas of South Australia) has a list of Qualified Doulas and Trainee Doulas in South Australia. You can also check profiles on a popular Doula directory.? DoSA recommends speaking to several Doulas as every Doula is unique and has something different to offer. Its important that both you and your partner meet with the Doula as you will have many intimate moments together. You will know who you click with usually instantly.