Most women have a partner or a friend with them in their birth journey. Their support is invaluable for peace of mind for the mom, but sometimes partners are just as overwhelmed and confused by the labour process and they don’t know how to help the laboring mom. This is where a Doula is valuable.
The word “Doula” is a Greek word meaning “woman who helps women”. In South Africa, Doulas are also known as Childbirth Companions.
Recognises childbirth as a key life experience that the mom will always remember.
Is a trained labour support person.
Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour.
Assists the woman and her partner in preparing for the birth and carrying out their plans for birth.
Provides continual emotional support and physical support to the labouring woman and her partner, as well as helping the woman gain access to the information she needs to make informed decisions.
Is trained to have an understanding of the natural and medical processes involved in labour to help mom and partner to stay calm by helping them understand what is happening.
Provides breastfeeding assistance and advice after the birth.
Can provide postnatal care once you have gone home especially with early breastfeeding challenges.
Studies have documented that a Doula’s touch and support leads to reduced pain – or, at the very least, the mother’s perception of reduced pain.
There have been many studies done on this matter, but one worldwide study, involving more than 1500 women, found mothers, who received Doula support often had shorter labours. Other benefits include:
Greater than 50% drop in caesarean births
30% reduction in the mother’s need for medication
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in forceps delivery
The research indicates the benefits of using a Doula do not end when your birth experience comes to a close. There are a multitude of benefits such as:
Better attachment and bonding between mom and baby
Reduced incidence of postnatal depression
Improved mother and baby well being
Positive feelings about labour and birth
Increased rate of breastfeeding
Why do Dads need Doulas at birth?
No matter how caring a dad is, usually he does not have the experience of supporting labouring women, or have the same knowledge of the emotions and physiology of labour. This will restrict him in his ability to reassure the mom and himself of what to expect throughout the labour journey. The Doula works together with the dad to provide the best well-rounded support for the labouring mom by means of providing emotional support, information and physical support. Research has shown that this will result in the mom coping better with the labour and birth and will give her a more positive birth memory.
What if you are having a Caesarean Birth?
It is also a very emotionally charged birth experience for both the mom and the partner. Some hospitals allow Doulas into theatre with the couple and after baby is born and dad leaves with baby to go to the nursery, the Doula stays with the mom in theatre until she is taken back to the ward and reunited with her baby.
A Doula can help by:
Advising the parents before the procedure of what to expect (helping them to stay calm)
Emotionally guiding the mom and sometimes the partner through the caesarean birth, never leaving the mom alone and constantly reassuring her.
Helping with the bonding of the baby by assisting with skin on skin contact and breastfeeding assistance once mom and baby are reunited in the ward.
What do I do if I would like to hire a Doula?
Firstly, research active Doulas in your area and contact them to meet with them to discuss your birth desires with them.
Before you hire a Doula for a hospital birth, you will need to get permission from your Gynaecologist and check with the Maternity Unit Manager of the Hospital, if the Doula you have chosen is allowed to practise at their hospital.
It is exciting to know that some medical aids have recognised the role that Doulas play in the birthing process and pay towards Doulas, so you may want to check if your medical aid covers Doulas.
Article written by Julie-Anne Visagie, Certified WOMBS Doula
Julie-Anne’s contact details:
Cell: 083 683 1265
A Note about me…
I am happily married and have two teenage sons. I am currently residing in Hillcrest, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.
Pregnancy, childbirth and early mothering can be hard and I am passionate about helping Moms relax and enjoy their journey with their Baby. As a result of this passion, I have been involved with Moms and Babies groups in various forms for many years.
I am a certified Doula (Childbirth Companion) and was trained through the Institute of Perinatal Education, in collaboration with Johnson and Johnson at the St Georges Life Hospital, Port Elizabeth. I have also been trained as a LeLeche League Breastfeeding Counsellor.
As a Doula, I work in the Upper Highway and Durban Metro Area, in Private and State Hospitals’ labour wards as well as doing pre and postnatal support and breastfeeding counselling. I feel privileged to share the most precious moments with a Mom and her Partner as I support and encourage them during labour and I am always honoured to be part of Baby’s welcoming team. I am also currently working at The Baby Clinic at Hillcrest Hospital assisting with the administration and breastfeeding counselling.