We can answer this question more accurately if change it to ‘who’ is a doula because what doulas do isn’t as important as the kind of people they are. Essentially they are people who support unconditionally.
A doula is someone who chooses to get to know and believe in the power that’s in each woman to know what’s the best birth for her and how to follow her instincts as a new mother. Doulas are experts in encouraging and supporting families so that they can enjoy the time of pregnancy birth and early baby days.
Every doula is different; each has knowledge of different things about pregnancy birth and babies but each is the same because they all come with total unconditional support for every family they work with.
Finding the right person to provide you with that unconditional practical and emotional support is your first step to realising the power in you to enjoy all that pregnancy birth and new parenthood has to offer. Your doula won’t ever give advice but they will get you the information you want and support you in whatever decision you make. Your doula is completely without any agenda except to support you.
Practically speaking a birth doula helps the family prepare for the birth and then supports the mother and her birth partner during the labour and delivery.
A postnatal doula supports the family practically and emotionally in the first weeks after the baby is born.
Doulas are not medical professionals; they do not do the job of you midwife, doctor or health visitor and they can not provide medical advice.
If that all sounds lovely but you’re not sure what the practical benefits would be here’s some of the measurable benefits that the kind of support doulas offer provides:
“Women who received continuous labour support were more likely to:
· give birth ‘spontaneously’, i.e. give birth with neither caesarean nor vacuum nor forceps.
· In addition, women were less likely to use pain medications,
· were more likely to be satisfied,
· and had slightly shorter labours.
· Their babies were less likely to have low five-minute Apgar scores.
· No adverse effects were identified.
We conclude that all women should have continuous support during labour.”
Cochrane review of research on continuous support for women during childbirth. Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C . 15 July 2013
- Ceasarean section 15% (versus 24.3% nationally)
- Epidurals 20% (versus over 30% UK average)
- Vaginal birth after a caesarean section success rate 70%
- Successful home births (no transfer) 19% [compared to less than 3% national home birth rate]
- 88% of women who had a postnatal doula were still breastfeeding at 6 weeks and 67% were still breastfeeding at 6 months.
© Goedkoop V. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 19, no 2, June 2009, pp 217-218