What is a Doula?
A doula (doo-lah) is a trained support companion for women and their families during pregnancy, labour and the weeks following birth.
A doula provides practical support, emotional care and information during this time. She may also lend a hand with communications between the mother, her family and the hospital staff.
The doula’s work and nurturing presence complement the care received from medical practitioners. A doula is different to a midwife. Where midwives oversee the medical parts of the birth, including the actual delivery, a doula’s expertise is in offering comfort, reassurance and non-biased information.
Her presence helps a labouring woman to feel safe and confident throughout labour, delivery and the immediate postpartum period. Help with comfort measures such as birth preparation, relaxation, breathing, massage, pain coping tools and positioning means the mother’s partner can play an active support role with more confidence.
Whilst obstetricians and midwives change shifts and must go to attend other clients, a doula remains with the woman continuously throughout the birth, until her baby is born. She is hired directly by the mother/parents and works alongside hospital staff to help ensure a safe and satisfying birth experience.
A doula’s presence also helps partners participate at their own comfort level, assists busy hospital staff and greatly increases a mother’s overall satisfaction with her birthing experience.
Birth doulas make a difference.
Many studies have been conducted regarding the continuous support of a trained birth companion. They have shown that mothers who choose to be supported by a doula during the childbearing year tend to have labours that are shorter, lower rates of medical interventions including assisted deliveries and caesarean births, babies that are healthier and breastfeed more easily, and greater maternal satisfaction.
- Decreased medical intervention in labour*
- Reduces need for caesarean by 50%*
- Reduces the need for forceps or vacuum extractor by 40%*
- Reduces use of epidural requests by 60%*
- Reduces the use of oxytocin by 40%*
- Reduces length of labour by 25%*
- Improved self-esteem of the mother
- Less anxious and depressed
- More likely to breastfeed
- Both mother and father more satisfied with their birth experience
* Klaus, Kennell, and Klaus (1993)
For women who are at-risk and lacking support and understanding of the birthing system in Australia, this additional continuous support and care can have even more significant impact in improving birth outcomes and satisfaction.
Go to the website below for the Cochrane review on: Continuous support for women during childbirth:
“Doulas Have Been Associated With Significantly Less Medical Intervention As Well As Positive Social Outcomes Such As Decreased Maternal Anxiety And Depression, Increased Breastfeeding And Increased Satisfaction With Their Partner.”