A Birth Doula understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour. She assists the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth. She provides continuity of care, emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint. She helps the woman and her partner obtain information they need to make good decisions.
Women have complex needs during childbirth. In addition to the safety of modern obstetrical care, and the love and companionship provided by their partners, women need consistent, continuous reassurance, comfort, encouragement and respect. They need individualized care based on their circumstances and preferences.
The role of the Doula encompasses the non-clinical aspects of care during childbirth.
The comfort and reassurances offered by the Doula are beneficial regardless of whether or not the woman chooses pain medication.
How will hiring a Doula help?
Studies indicate that when a Doula is present, labours tend to be shorter with less need for technical aid, and there is greater maternal satisfaction. This provides a more relaxed postpartum environment and enhances early mother-infant relationships, breastfeeding and family adjustments.
A Birth Doula…
1. Does not replace the woman’s partner or care providers
2. Does not make decisions for, or speak instead of, her client. She does not project her own values and goals onto her client, or discourage the woman from her own choices
3. Does not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking blood pressure or temperature, fetal heart tones, vaginal exams, or postpartum clinical care
Postpartum Doulas recognize the importance and challenges of family adjustments following the birth of a baby. Services may include all or any of the following (usually customized to meet the needs of individual families):
1. Reassurance and support to help parents feel comfortable and confident with their babies
2. Breastfeeding support
3. Practical hands-on help such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, laundry and short errands
4. Provide relief child-care/sibling care
Overall, a postpartum Doula will “mother the new mother”, so that she, and her loved ones ease into their new roles confidently and smoothly. The quality of emotional care received by the mother during labour, birth and immediately afterwards is a vital factor that can strengthen the emotional ties between the mother and child and her partner. The importance of these relationships cannot be over emphasized, since these early relationships largely determine the future of each family, and also society as a whole.