A Doula is a professionally trained childbirth support person providing research based information to pregnant women and their support person throughout pregnancy, birth and the early postnatal period. They are a go between the couple and the medical profession to assist couples to make decisions around birthing and parenting that are best for them. Doulas do not make decisions for couples or interfere in the relationship they may have with the medical profession. They provide information outlining options so the couple can make informed decisions.
Doulas also provide emotional and physical support to women throughout the birth as well as much needed guidance to fathers to learn how to support their partners through such an emotionally and physically charged experience. The doula does not take over from the father but rather acts to enhance the their role and thereby assisting in building close relationships.
Doulas provide continuity of care and continual support throughout labour. Many times there is a transfer to hospital, then shift changes throughout the labour and for these reasons the doula can help make these transitions smooth and hardly noticed.
The Doula helps maintain a birthing environment conducive to birthing. This is very helpful not only for a more positive birth experience but also immediately after birth when the bonding period is crucial.
More recently post natal doulas are becoming popular with couples who have little social support after the birth and need further assistance in the transition to parenting. They can provide services such as further assistance with transition from hospital to home, assistance with light housework, preparing nutritional meals, assisting with breastfeeding / bottle feeding and care for older siblings. Throughout this time there is lots of nurturing, support and encouragement for this new family as they become adjusted to the changes in their lives. The postnatal doula can also refer the couple to other resources should they need further assistance.
Ideally the doula is well entrenched it the birthing community and will have many resources available to her to assist her birthing woman and support people.
Each doula works differently and has a different skill set so the birthing woman should be encouraged to look for a doula that resonates with her ideals. There is no one doula for every woman rather there are many doulas that will suit different women and their support person.
Many doulas work in other areas that are complimentary to doula services such as reflexologists, naturopaths, massage therapists, hypnobirthing therapists etc and this may be something a woman is also looking for.
The cost of a doula varies and is dependent on experience and skills. Difficult though it is, a woman should be encouraged to find a doula that resonates with her and connects with her on a very deep level, and not based on price or experience. To have a doula at a birth because she is the most experienced, or the cheapest can be detrimental to the birthing process. Birthing women need to feel they can trust their doula and have a connection with them. It is a very big privilege to be asked into the birth space so the doula involved needs to be welcomed into that without question.