A doula is birth companion or coach who helps support a women before, during and after birth. A mother to the mother as some say. The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek and means “woman who serves”. Doulas provide emotional and physical support to the mother in labour as well as informational support and advice throughout her pregnancy and post-partum period. They are non-medical professionals but can usually answer questions about any medical issues that may arise through their own knowledge and experience. They don’t support the mother in a clinical role – that is the job of midwives and doctors. Most doulas are mother themselves.
Having a birth doula has been shown to help women have shorter labours with fewer complications, and babies are often healthier and have an easier time breastfeeding. A doula can also help the father or partner enjoy the birth experience more by offering reassurance and support in how to be involved in the birth.
During labour, doulas are in constant contact with the mother. They can provide help with natural pain-relief techniques including breathing and relaxation measures, and help guide the mother with optimal labouring positions. Doulas encourage participation from the father or partner and helps the couple experience the process together as a team. The aim of a doula is to help the mother have a safe, empowering and positive birth experience.
Whether the mother chooses an un-medicated or medicated birth, her doula will support her choices and work towards making her experience the best it can be. In the event of an emergency situation such as an unexpected c-section, a doula can provide encouragement and help the mother deal with any feelings of anxiety and disappointment. She can also stay with the mother while the father or partner accompanies the baby to the nursery in the event of any complications.
Once the baby is born, doulas often spend time helping the mother establish breastfeeding and getting settled into their new life with the baby. Doulas also encourage bonding between the new baby and other siblings and family members.