What is a birth doula?
Updated: Jan 2, 2019
When I say I'm a doula, 99.9% of people have absolutely no idea what i'm talking about. Even when I explain it, many are left with furrowed eyebrows, looking slightly perplexed. So, you're a midwife? They ask. A mother's help? A housekeeper? A nanny?
The truth is, it's none of the above.
A doula is a non medical person, who provides continuous emotional and physical support to a mum to be and her partner (if she has one) during pregnancy, labour and the early weeks of motherhood. A doula is usually a woman, often a mother herself, who has had some training in antenatal support, birth and infant care, but is not medically trained.
The term doula, derived from an ancient Greek word meaning "female slave", was originally used in its current context back in 1973, by medical anthropologist, Dana Raphael, who noted that breastfeeding success in certain populations depended on the support of women from outside of the new mother's family. This model of support gradually became applied to childbirth.
A doula is not a replacement midwife or doctor, but someone you have hired independently to be at your birth, who is focused entirely on you. A doula won't get in the way of clinical staff, but will ensure your wishes are heard. She'll offer evidence based options to help you with your decisions throughout pregnancy and birth, but not her personal opinions and certainly not her judgement.
To give you an idea of exactly what a birth doula can do for you, this is what I offer the people I work with (please note, while most doulas offer something similar to this, it will vary depending on the person):
At least two antenatal sessions lasting around 2 hours each, to discuss your birthing options and preferences, including physiological birth, family centred caesarian, pain management (natural and pharmaceutical) and the role of your birthing partner
Continuous support via email, text and phone throughout pregnancy to ensure you feel fully informed about your options
On call from 10 days prior to your EDD until your baby comes. I promise I'll never be far away during this time, which means wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I'll drop everything to be with you within the hour.
Continuous support throughout labour until you meet your baby. If you need me from your very first twinge, I'll be there.
Breathing, meditation, relaxation and massage techniques to be used throughout your labour
Support for your birthing partner (if you have one)
Helping you to communicate with medical staff effectively and have your needs and wishes understood
Breastfeeding support if requested
A post birth catch up to discuss the birth and how early motherhood is going
Birth doulas aren't magicians and can't guarantee a particular kind of birth. However, they will do their very best to help make your birth a positive and empowering experience, through informed choice, a calm environment and by keeping your needs and wishes front and centre the entire time.
To find out more about my birth package, click here