A doula is a person (usually a woman) who is trained and has experience in, assisting and supporting a woman through pregnancy, labour, birth and/or the postpartum period. The role of a doula is to support a woman in labour, wherever she chooses to give birth – a hospital, at home, or in a birthing centre. Doulas work as part of a birth team, their knowledge and experience can help partners; family and/or friends participate comfortably and effectively at the birth. Her greatest role is to “be there for the woman” and to help her have the best possible birthing experience by working and supporting whoever is there.
It is important to meet with the mother and her partner during the pregnancy to get acquainted and discuss the birth – sometimes this can be part of the HypnoBirthing experience where the couple undertake the 5 week HypnoBirthing course first. By establishing a comfortable and happy relationship with the parents the continuous emotional support continues through pregnancy and from early labour through to the birth of the baby.
Doulas offer assistance in preparing for the birth, such as creating a birth plan/birth preferences and provide resources and information so that people are able to make informed choices about their pregnancy, labour, and childbirth.
Doulas offer non-drug techniques to ease labour discomfort, facilitate labour progress, and avoid complications and unnecessary medical interventions. During labour a doula helps with breathing and relaxation techniques and may provide massage, they make suggestions on position changes for comfort and labour progress and offer frequent reassurance.
“As part of my service, I encourage Hypnosis as part of the methods of relaxation, this is established during pregnancy either through HypnoBirthing or personal Hypnosis classes and then reinforced throughout labour.”
Doulas are important advocates for couples during the birth; helping to support not only the mother but the father too. Doulas help to ensure that any diversion from their birth plans are understood and agreed upon by them and finally post-natal visits and support with referral advice provided, if necessary.
Research by Enkin, Keirse, Renfrew and Neilson.1995. A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy and Childbirth indicates that the presence of a Doula:
- Decreases the need for caesarean by 50%
- Increases the chances of un-medicated birth 30 – 60%
- Decreases the length of labour by 25%
- Decreases the need for other interventions with mother and baby
- Increases the mother’s and father’s satisfaction with the experience