What is a Doula?
A doula is an experienced companion who understands the emotional and physical needs of a woman and her family throughout her pregnanlecy, labour, birth and early postnatal period, and provides continuous support (non-medical) and care for a woman throughout her whole experience.
Doulas are trained and certified to support women on an emotional and practical basis and to interact sensitively with all those involved with pregnancy, birth and the early postnatal period.
The role of the birth doula is that of a professional, non-medical birth companion, able to provide:
- continuity of care;
- reassurance and encouragement;
- breathing and relaxation techniques;
- help with labour and birth position; and
- support for the partner.
Our overall aim as birth doulas is to help the mother experience a more positive labour and birth.
A birth doula package will generally consist of two to three antenatal visits, attendance during labour and birth, email and telephone contact, on call from 38 weeks, and one or two postnatal visits.
The role of the postnatal doula is mostly nurturing and can involve:
- support during the transitional period from hospital to home;
- reassuring and supporting the mother;
- help with establishing feeding (breast/bottle);
- care for older siblings, light housework;
- preparing nutritious meals.
Our overall aim as postnatal doulas is to help mothers and babies get off to the best possible start.
For Health Professionals
Doulas aim to work respectfully alongside medical providers to ensure that their clients and families are well supported and their needs met.
A doula is someone who provides informational, emotional, physical and practical support to women and their families throughout pregnancy, birth and the early postnatal period. Their role is non-medical.
All members of Australian Doulas have undergone training through a recognised doula training program to become a birth doula, a postnatal doula, or both.
Research on the impact of providing doula support to women shows shorter labour times, reduced caesarean and forceps deliveries, reduced need for epidurals and high levels of satisfaction with having a doula.
Dads and Doulas
by Penny Simkin
One question heard a lot is what about dad? Will a doula take his role? I hope to be able to answer those concerns with the below information:
Myth #1 – If a woman has her partner, the doula becomes redundant
Reality – The doula may be the only person at the labour, besides the partner, who is there solely for the emotional well-being of the woman. The nurse, the doctor, the midwife have other priorities that compete with the emotional care of the woman: for example, breaks, shift change, clinical responsibilities, office hours and hospital policies. The doula has few or no other priorities. She stays through shift changes, and until after the baby is born. She is not just another stranger with the couple. She has the woman’s needs as her sole priority.
Myth #2 – The doula “takes over”, displacing the partner and interferes with their intimate experience
Reality – The doula can actually bring the couple closer. By making sure that the partner’s needs are met (food, drink, occasional back rubs, and reassurance), the woman and her partner can work more closely together. The doula allows for the partner to participate at this own comfort level.Some partners prefer to be there only to witness the birth of their child and to share in this experience with the woman that they love. They may not want to play an active role and do not want to be responsible for the woman’s comfort and emotional security. The doula can fill in and allow the partner to participate as he wishes, without leaving the woman’s needs unmet. When the partner chooses to be the major source of emotional support, the doula can supplement his or her efforts by running errands, making suggestions for comfort measures, and offering words of reassurance and comfort. During a long tiring labour, she can give the partner a break for a brief rest or change of scene.
While the doula probably knows more than the partner about birth, hospitals, and maternity care, the partner knows more about the woman’s personality, likes and dislikes, and needs. Moreover, he loves the woman more than anyone else there. The combined contribution of the partner and doula, along with a competent, considerate and caring staff gives the woman the best chance of an optimal outcome.
Myth #3 – The doula has her own beliefs about how birth should go, and imposes it on the woman or couple
Reality – The doula’s true agenda is to help ensure that the woman’s or couple’s agenda is acknowledged and followed as much as possible. If the doula is thoroughly familiar with the couple’s wishes and their plan, she may actually think more about it than the couple, especially when labour is intense and things are happening rapidly.The doula can remind the staff or the couple of some items on the birth plan that are forgotten, but which might later be important. Sometimes if a birth plan is not followed, the couple later look back with regret or disappointment. The doula helps with decision making by asking questions that will ensure that the right information is given to the woman or couple so that they can make an informed decision. She may also suggest alternatives for the couple to consider. She does not, however, make decisions for the couple.
In summary, the doula helps make the birth experience to be as rewarding and satisfying as possible. As one father said: “I heaved a big sigh of relief when she (the doula) walked in. I hadn’t realized how much pressure I had been feeling. She not only calmed my wife, she calmed me down.”