THE ROLE OF DOULAS
Trained and experienced, a doula is a reassuring and calming presence. She is dedicated to your well-being during pregnancy, labour and birth, and, if necessary, post-natally for both you and your baby.
Birth doulas meet up with the mother or the couple several times before labour to cultivate a warm, familiar and comforting relationship. During these informal meetings, the mother and her partner can ask questions regarding their options, share any concerns they may have, express their wishes, write or clarify their birth plan and prepare practically, physically and emotionally for the birth itself.
These visits may lead to your talking through hidden fears, cultural conditioning and pre-conceived ideas about birth and parenting. This makes it possible for mothers and their partners to experience this precious time in their own way, without unnecessary pressure, and to trust their own intuitive sense as parents.
Birth doulas are on call for you from Week 38 of your pregnancy and are always prepared and available to join you in the early stages of labour. Your doula will stay with you throughout labour, providing you with continual care and support until your baby and placenta are born and everyone is comfortable. There will be a back-up doula who can take over if unforeseeable circumstances prevent your doula from assisting the whole birth process.
Birth doulas make a post-natal visit whenever it feels right for you. They come to see you and your baby to make sure you are at peace with the birth and have what you need. There are post-natal doulas who exclusively give one-to-one, continuous support throughout the post-natal phase, if required, or occasional help, ensuring that you have time to rest, recover and bond with your baby.
THE VALUE OF DOULAS
The continuous support of a doula can remarkably improve labour and birth outcomes. A positive birth outcome means a healthier start to life for your baby and a positive beginning to motherhood for you. Evidence-based results from doula-supported births show:
Fewer interventions during labour
Fewer requests for epidurals and pain medication
Much lower c-section rates
Fewer instrumental deliveries (forceps or ventouse)
A higher chance of a spontaneous natural birth
Mothers reported feeling more fulfilled and happier when asked about their experiences during labour and birth
More successful breastfeeding
Doula-supported pregnancies and births have also been shown to increase emotional well-being during pregnancy, and post-natally, and to enhance confidence so as to prevent fear and anxiety.
"Mothering the Mother: How a Doula can help you have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth", (1993) by Klaus, Kennel and Klaus.
See also Evidence Based Birth.