What the heck is a Doula?

Renee Adair
2min read

A doula, or birth attendant, is a woman offering support and information to parents during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. 'Doula' is a Greek word that has come to mean, "to serve". There are also end of life Doulas and Doula’s offering support and education in a variety of spaces and settings however for the purpose of this article, I am going to focus on birth and postnatal Doulas. 

Overall, a birth and postnatal Doula believes it is a woman's rite of passage to birth her baby where, with whom, and how she wishes. Therefore, we will support you from a home birth with a Midwife to a private delivery suite with an OB and into theatre for a caesarean.    

The doula is knowledgeable in comfort measures such as relaxation breathing, massage and positioning, managing labour sensations using water, hot packs and aromas. Some Doulas offer other services as well including Blessingways, belly castings and placental encapsulation. 

Doulas specialise in non-medical skills, and do not perform clinical tasks, such as vaginal exams or fetal heart rate monitoring. Doulas do not diagnose medical conditions, offer second opinions, or give medical advice. Our primary and unique role is to encourage the birthing woman's self-confidence and engage the fathers/partners so all involved have a satisfying experience. 

Many studies in the USA have been conducted and highlighted the huge difference a Doula can make to a labour and birth. In the USA, UK and parts of Europe doulas are a recognised part of the birthing team and postnatal services. The doula services fill an important gap for women and their caregivers and have been developed over the years to respond to the ever-increasing requests from women to have more support and continuity of care before, during and after the birth of their children.

According to research undertaken in the US, Klaus, Kennel and Klaus, authors of Mothering the Mother, "How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier and Healthier Birth" have identified the benefits of having a doula at your birth:

  1. 50% reduction in caesarean rate
  2. 25% shorter labour
  3. 60% reduction in epidural requests
  4. 40% reduction in oxytocin use
  5. 30% reduction in analgesia use
  6. 40% reduction in forceps delivery
  7. Improved breastfeeding
  8. Decreased incidence of postpartum depression
  9. Greater maternal satisfaction
  10. Better mother-infant interaction

I like to say that “a doula does not come flying in with a super hero cape on, but rather she helps you find yours!”

All kinds of people hire a Doula, including first time mums, those that have had a doula for previous birth/s, women who have experienced a previous birth trauma or postnatal depression and women wanting to achieve a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). A Doula is non judgmental and will walk along side you on your journey, however that unfolds for you.