What is a doula? Doulas are non-medical professionals who support women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth and in the first few months of the life of their new baby. Doulas are usually either birth doulas or postpartum doulas (although sometimes they provide both services). They provide very different, yet vital roles during the perinatal period. Birth doulas provide prenatal support, are there continuously during labour and birth, and help with the initial postpartum concerns. Postpartum doulas provide the important ongoing support after the baby's birth at home while a new family adjusts to life with a newborn.
What is a birth doula? A birth doula is a professional who:
Recognizes birth as a key life experience that a woman will remember forever.
Inform clients and answer their questions with accurate information.
Provides emotional support by being encouraging, validating, safe and reassuring.
Provides physical comfort with massage, touch, breathing, relaxation techniques and suggesting positions.
Stays by the side of the labouring woman throughout labour and delivery.
Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of the woman in labour.
Assists a woman and her partner in preparing and carrying out their plans for birth.
Facilitates communication between the labouring woman, her partner and other care providers.
Encourages self determination.
Compliments the care provided by the woman's partner, other family members and friends.
What is a postpartum doula? A postpartum doula is a professional who:
Provides physical comfort to the new mother by helping her care for her postpartum body.
Provides emotional support for the new family by listening to their birth story, validating their experience, supporting the couple into their transition to parenting and by helping siblings adjust to the presence of the baby.
Provides guidance in infant care.
Offers basic household assistance.
Offers day and night shifts.
Why should I hire a doula? A review by Cochrane on the effects of "Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth." has drawn astonishing conclusions. The primary objective of this review was to assess the effects on mothers and their babies, of continuous one-to-one support as compared to usual care. Fifteen trials involving 12,791 women were included. After review and analysis of the data, the researchers offered the following synopsis:
"Continuous labour support reduces a woman's likelihood of having pain medications, increases her satisfaction and chances for "spontaneous" birth and has no known risks. Supportive care during labour may involve emotional support, information and comfort measures. Such care may enhance normal labour processes and thus reduce need for obstetric intervention."
The reviewer's offered the following conclusion: All women should have support throughout labour and birth.
What are the benefits of doula support? A reduction in:
Length of labour
Maternal fever and infection
Maternal sense of isolation
Infant and maternity hospital stays
An increase in:
Maternal sense of control
Maternal pain threshold
Spontaneous vaginal birth
Individualized clinical judgement
Maternal satisfaction with her childbirth experience
Effects on the health care system:
Lower use of medication
Lower use of hospital beds
Lower use of medical staff
Lower use of emergency services
Dramatic reduction in the cost of obstetrical care
Focus on preventative rather than palliative care
What are the qualifications of a DAE doula?
The members of the Doula Association of Edmonton have obtained training and their certification from one or more of the following organizations.
When it comes to pregnancy, birth and parenting, partners are accepted members of the mother's birth team. The partner is expected, among other things, to become familiar with the process and language of birth, to understand medical procedures and hospital protocols and advocate for the mother of his or her child in an environment and culture that he or she is unfamiliar with. A doula can provide the information to help parents make appropriate decisions and facilitate communication between the labouring woman, her partner and medical care providers.
At times, partners may not understand a woman's instinctive behaviour during childbirth and may react anxiously to what a doula knows to be the normal process of birth. A doula can be reassuring.
Partners presence and loving support during childbirth is comforting and reassuring. The love they share with the mother and child, their needs to nurture and protect their families are priceless gifts that only they can provide. With her partner and a doula at birth, a mother can have the best of both worlds: her partners loving care and attention and the doulas expertise and guidance in childbirth Learn more about the research behind doulas.