What the heck is a Doula?

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By Renee Adair

A doula, or birth attendant, is a woman offering support and information to parents in pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. ‘Doula’ is a Greek word that has come to mean, “to serve”. There are also end of life Doulas and Doula’s offering support and education in a variety of spaces and settings however for the purpose of this article, I am going to focus on birth and post natal Doulas.

Overall, a birth and postnatal Doula believes it is a woman’s rite of passage to birth her baby where, with whom, and how she wishes. Therefore, we will support you from a homebirth with a Midwife to a private delivery suite with an OB and into theatre for a caesarean.

The doula is knowledgeable in comfort measures such as relaxation breathing, massage and positioning, managing labour sensations using water, hot packs and aromas. Some Doulas offer other services as well including Blessingways, belly castings and placental encapsulation.

Doulas specialise in non-medical skills, and do not perform clinical tasks, such as vaginal exams or fetal heart rate monitoring. Doulas do not diagnose medical conditions, offer second opinions, or give medical advice. Our primary and unique role is to encourage the birthing woman’s self-confidence and engage the fathers/partners so all involved have a satisfying experience.
Many studies in the USA have been conducted and highlighted the huge difference a Doula can make to a labour and birth. In the USA, UK and parts of Europe doulas are a recognised part of the birthing team and postnatal services. The doula services fill an important gap for women and their caregivers and have been developed over the years to respond to the ever-increasing requests from women to have more support and continuity of care before, during and after the birth of their children.

According to research undertaken in the US, Klaus, Kennel 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

I like to say that “a doula does not come flying in with a super hero cape on, but rather she helps you find yours!”

All kinds of people hire a Doula, including first time mums, those that have had a doula for previous birth/s, women who have experienced a previous birth trauma or postnatal depression and women wanting to achieve a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean).

Most Doulas work with a base package and will also offer individual packages according to our clients needs. Students from the College are fully supported and are only $385.00 (inc gst) for our base package, which includes an obligation free interview; three visits before the birth, attendance at the birth and two post natal visits. Prices for experienced Doulas start at around $950.00 depending on where you live and your requirements.

Whatever your choice in levels of experience, a Doula is non judgemental and will walk along side you on your journey, however that unfolds for you.

Find out more information at the Australian Doula College website

 

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