A doula can support you at any stage of your journey, pre-conception, during pregnancy, birth and postnatally. The love and support that a doula can give you, means that you in turn are able to focus your love and care on your baby.
A doula is there for you and your partner, nobody else. Your doula will support you for as long as you need them for. Doulas don’t go ‘off shift’ until you no longer require their assistance and as they’re not busy with the medical aspects of birth they can solely focus on making sure you do well physically and emotionally.
There are number of reasons that hiring a ‘birth’ doula could be advantageous to you. Firstly we will look at this statistically; “in 2017, Bohren et al. published an updated Cochrane review on the use of continuous support for women during childbirth. They combined the results of 26 trials that included more than 15,000 people”. (Evidence Based Birth®, 2020)
Overall, the results of the study found that people who received continuous support were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medication or epidurals, vacuum or forceps-assisted births and less likely to require a caesarean. Put simply this means that if a birthing person has continuous labour support (like a doula for example), both mothers and babies are statistically more likely to have better outcomes! Interestingly research has also shown that with some outcomes, doulas have a stronger effect on some aspects of birth than perhaps other types of support such as birth partners, midwives and clinicians.
During your birth, your doula will be there to look after you physically as well as emotionally, they can make sure you keep your energy levels up by providing you and your birth partner with drinks and food. They can also help look after older children who may be present if you are birthing at home. Your doula will aim to make sure you are comfortable and have the environment as much to your liking as possible; for example, lighting candles, putting on your chosen music or filling a bath.
From an emotional perspective a doula is helpful because they are a calm supportive presence amidst all the excitement of your birth, and they will strive to eliminate your fear and therefore decrease pain. Perhaps you have a special set of circumstances, such as needing support during a VBAC or multiple births. Doulas can also help an anxious birth partner and can be with you while your partner takes a break to gather their thoughts.
Doulas are for anyone, not just those opting for home births. If you are planning to have your baby in hospital or midwife-led unit then your doula can still be of assistance. Your doula can listen with a calm ear to the information being given to you by medical professionals, they can be a sounding board for you to talk through your thoughts and feelings about your labour as it progresses. They will also be an advocate for you should you start feel uncomfortable with any requests being made by medical professionals. Your doula can also attend your c-section delivery should your birthing partner be too anxious or squeamish to join you in theatre.
Some new parents decide they want to hire a ‘postnatal’ doula. A postnatal doula can assist you in several ways. Firstly, breastfeeding can take time to figure out, its not as easy as the books and glowing media pictures portray. Having a doula by your side during frustrating or exhausted feedings can be extremely beneficial. Some doulas will have additional breastfeeding training and be able to offer knowledgeable support, some doulas will have breastfed their own babies and can empathise with your challenges. For some people it may be that you opt to chest-feed and perhaps aren’t confident in seeking help from a ‘mainstream’ breastfeeding support group.
Whether you are feeding your baby yourself or opting for formula, it is still exhausting looking after a new born and it is important that you and your partner are well nourished, your doula will be able to cook for you and your family, make drinks, remind you to maintain a good fluid intake (especially important if you are feeding your baby yourself) and also carry out household duties so that you and your family have more time to concentrate on bonding with your new arrival. Your doula can also help with older siblings; one of the benefits of having a doula is that you will have likely seen them a few times so they become a familiar face in your close network of support and it can be reassuring for children to see a familiar person too. Your doula may also have had training in babywearing and can help you to add this to your parenting ‘tools’.
Lastly another key role of a postnatal doula is to provide emotional support for you and your family straight after the birth of your baby. These days it is easy to feel overwhelmed by differing and sometimes conflicting parenting advice offered. Your postnatal doula can give you the opportunity to talk things through, and just chat. They are there to listen and offer suggestions but not to preach advice. You may wish to ‘de-brief’ after birth is over but postnatal doulas can also be there to support you through concerns about other aspects of parenting; feeding, going back to work, weaning, sleep and much more.
So, as you can see there are many many benefits to finding the right doula for you. Starting your journey towards parenthood is one of the most significant events in your life. Having a doula is the ultimate in support for you at this memorable time and they will strive to care for you in a way that will enable you to feel more confident and calm as you encounter new experiences and feelings on your path to becoming a parent.
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Evidence Based Birth®. (2020). Evidence on: Doulas. [online] Available at: https://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/ [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020].
McMahon, M. (2015). Why Doulas matter. Pinter and Martin.
Northeast Doulas. (2020). The Benefits of a Postpartum Doula - Top ten self care. [online] Available at: https://northeastdoulas.com/10-reasons-to-hire-a-postpartum-doula/ [Accessed 13 Feb. 2020].
Sheref, L. (2020). Labour & Birth | Mother&Baby. [online] Motherandbaby.co.uk. Available at: https://www.motherandbaby.co.uk/pregnancy-and-birth/birth/labour-and-birth [Accessed 7 Feb. 2020].
Simkin, P. and Rohs, K. (2018). The Birth Partner A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Partners, Doulas, and All Other Labour Companions. 5th ed. Harvard Common Press.