Congratulations, you are pregnant! But what now? Pregnancy is both an amazing and overwhelming experience and a doula can help you through this unpredictable adventure.
What is a doula?
Doula (from Greek word doulē meaning female slave) is a non-medically trained person who supports you during your pregnancy, labour or birth and beyond. They are trained and experienced in birth support in a non-medical role, but usually have a good knowledge and awareness of the medical birth process. A doula offers emotional and physical support for the mom and dad and also has a keen eye and intuition on the labouring needs of the mother.
How does the doula help?
You would meet your doula before your birth. When meeting, you would discuss your birth wishes, what to pack, natural pain relief techniques and any concerns or fears you may have. Your doula is your advocate for what you would ideally like in your birth process.
She can also guide you as to what is realistic and what is not. She will also help to put your mind at ease about questions and concerns you may have. Many different techniques are used by different doulas to help with natural pain relief and emotional support. When interviewing your doula, it is important to find one who matches your needs and with whom you feel a connection.
When you go into labour, your doula will either come to your house or meet you at the hospital or place you have chosen to give birth, and help you during labour and birth. They then stay with the parents until the baby is born. Once the baby has arrived, the doula will help to get your baby latched if you plan to breastfeed and help the parents with whatever they may need.
“They are trained and experienced in birth support in a non-medical role, but usually have a good knowledge and awareness of the medical birth process.”
Your doula will then see you again after the birth to help with a variety of things like showing you how to bath your baby or give you more breastfeeding support. Your doula will also be available via WhatsApp for questions and concerns during your pregnancy and beyond.
Does the doula replace the dad or birth partner?
No, definitely not. Your doula will work closely with both of you and he should never feel replaced or left out. The added benefit of a doula is that the dad can take a short break when needed, as the mother will still have the doula’s full support.
A Cochrane review published in 2012 found the following in labours with the continuous presence of a doula:
- 28% less likely to have a caesarean section
- 31% less likely to need induction
- 12% increase in the likelihood of a vaginal birth
- 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery
- 34% less likely to rate their childbirth experience negatively.
How do you find a doula?
WOMBS (Women Offering Mothers Birth Support) is one of the training institutes in South Africa and their website lists trained doulas in your area.