The Birth Doula
A birth, companion or labour doula provides non clinical, but valuable support to the pregnant woman giving birth before, during, and just after the birth of the baby. She may assist with breastfeeding. The doula provides techniques for relaxation and pain relief in labour, gives emotional support from home to hospital and eases the transition into the hospital environment. The doula can work just as effectively if it is a home birth.
The birth doula serves as an advocate, labour coach, and information source to give the pregnant woman and her partner the added comfort of additional support throughout the entire labour.
Doulas meet with the parents in the second or third trimester of the pregnancy to get acquainted and to learn about prior birth experiences and the history of this pregnancy. She may help you develop a birth plan, teach relaxation, pain relief, visualization and breathing skills useful for labour. Most importantly, the doula will provide comfort, support, and information about birth options. She will also point out the benefits of breastfeeding.
A doula can help the woman to determine pre-labour from true labour and early labour from active labour. At a point determined by the woman in labour, the doula will come to her and assist her by:
- Providing support for the woman's partner.
- Encouraging nutrition and fluids in early labour.
- Assisting the pregnant woman in using a variety of helpful positions and comfort measures.
- Constantly focusing on the comfort of both the woman giving birth and her partner.
- Helping the environment to be one in which the woman feels secure and confident.
- Providing her with information on birth options.
A doula works co-operatively with the healthcare team. In the event of a complication, a doula can be a great help in understanding what is happening and what options the family may have. The doula may also help with the initial breastfeeding and in preserving the privacy of the new family during the first hour after birth.
It is imperative to understand the key differences between a midwife and a doula:
- A doula is a professional in her own right. A doula does not have a nursing or medical role.
- A doula will be there throughout your labour. It does not matter how long. It does not matter whether it is a home birth or hospital birth.
- A doula is unique. A doula is not associated to a hospital, consultant, doctor or midwife and is there for you only.