There are many ways to give birth, not all of them involve a hospital and a caesarian. Some women elect to giving birth at home or to have a water birth. Some women feel more comfortable in an ambient environment rather than a clinical hospital and some simply feel safer in a hospital. Consulting with a doula means being supported and gathering all the information you need to make informed choices. A doula will also help with labour and act as a reassuring presence during the first few weeks of motherhood.
The word 'doula' is a Greek word that literally translates to 'women's servant'. Today, it refers to a professional who is trained in providing emotional, physical and educational support to a mother-to-be or mother who is expecting, experiencing labour, or has recently given birth.
Most expectant mothers begin their relationship with a doula a few months before their due date. During this period, they ask the doula anything and everything they'd like to know about both childbirth and motherhood.
The doula and mother, or parents will typically create a birth plan outlining the preferences for the big day, making sure everyone is in the loop and any issues that may arise are resolved before the time. Topics covered in the birth plan can include a list of people who should be present at the birth, the mother's preferred position for giving birth, what pain relief methods are preferred, creating a supportive ambience with music and fragrance and, whether the mother wants to breastfeed immediately after giving birth, and more.
While doulas do not provide medical care, they are well versed in many of the medical aspects of labour and delivery. They are present at the birth, offering comfort in the form of pain relief and relaxation assistance (such as massage, breathing techniques, labouring position suggestions, etc.), as well as emotional and informational support. After the birth, they help new mothers to begin the breastfeeding process, and encourage bonding between the baby and its family members.
Essentially, a doula's role is to help ensure that childbirth is a safe and positive experience for all involved. A number of studies have highlighted the positive effects of birthing with the help of a professional doula. Women supported by doulas are less likely to have cesarean sections and less likely to take painkillers, for example. Most also report their birth experience as positive and joyful.
It's important for couples to know that a doula doesn't replace the role of the husband or partner during childbirth. Rather, she will complement and assist the partner's efforts, coaching both parents through the process. Many partners like the fact that they can be free to assist emotionally without the pressure of feeling like they need to know what to do and say at a practical level every step of the way.
Doulas are not just helpful in natural, un-medicated births. They also work alongside mothers who choose to have medicated births, providing emotional, educational and physical support throughout the process. They can also be very effective in helping these mothers to deal with the potential side effects of the medication.
The support of a doula can even be beneficial in the case of a cesarean section, which often results from an unexpected complication and can leave a mother feeling disappointed and unprepared. Explaining what is going on and providing reassurance throughout the procedure is one of the most important roles of a doula in such a case.
While labour doulas (those who assist primarily during the birth of the child) are the most common, there are also those who specialise as either antepartum or postpartum doulas. Antepartum doulas usually help mothers experiencing high-risk pregnancies, offering all the assistance and support needed to lesson the stress of the situation and ensure that the mother is as prepared as possible for the upcoming birth.
Postpartum doulas, on the other hand, support the parents throughout the first few weeks after birth, showing them how to feed and care for the baby and providing practical support by cleaning, cooking, etc. Most doulas are trained to be able to assist before, during and after labour, so unless you're looking for someone who specialises in a specific stage of the process, you will probably find that your doula will be able to walk alongside you every step of the way.
When choosing a doula, it's important to take your time to find the right match. Your initial interview should cover her training, services, fees, availability, childbirth philosophy, and anything else you may need to know to ensure the right fit. It's important to remember that, no matter how skillful your doula is, her role is to equip you with the knowledge and confidence you need to reclaim your own body and, in the process, facilitate a more joyful passage into the world for your child.
For more information, speak to Cape Town based doula Janine Doerheit on Cell: 071 252 1610
“Wellness Warehouse strives to help you live life well but because we are retailers and not medical practitioners we cannot offer medical advice. Please always consult your medical practitioner before taking any supplements, complementary medicines or have any health concerns and ensure that you always read labels, warnings and directions carefully, prior to consumption.”