Role of the Doula

Eight Things You Want to Know About Doula Support

In recognition of World Doula Week, I thought I’d share some lesser known facts about these weird and wonderful creatures of magic.

Did you know …

  1. They don’t leave. From the moment they arrive, they remain a constant companion to the labouring mother until well after the baby is born.  Partners get to make bathroom or the “oh shit I’m not coping and need to get outta here” breaks, while other birth attendants are free to occasionally find a quiet spot to make notes or check in with other clients.
  2. As per DONA International, they are trained professionals who provide physical, emotional and informational support to mothers before, during and shortly after childbirth.  This means that over the weeks/months leading up to, including your special day and beyond, your doula will:
    – be a resource for evidence-based information, leaving you to make informed choice;
    – offer you and your partner emotional support as you talk through upcoming changes to your family unit and, if necessary, help process fears related to birth;
    – teach you and your partner physical and emotional coping skills such as counter-pressure techniques, massage, breathing and visualising tools to support an efficient labour.  Pretty amazing, right?
  3. Want the best opportunity to avoid caesarean birth? Really want to experience natural labour? Hire a doula! In the largest systematic review of continuous support published in 2011, which included 15 000 women in 21 randomised controlled trials, it was proven that when a mother has doula support, her chances of caesarean birth is reduced by 28%!
  4. In the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a study titled “Continuous support for women in childbirth” it was found that women with such support experienced more spontaneous vaginal birth and shorter labours compared to their counterparts.  Sheesh.  Who doesn’t want a shorter more spontaneous delivery?
  5. Doulas “mother the mother“.  From offering her regular sips of water, applying an icy wet towel to her forehead or back of neck (especially if labouring in water), to holding her hand for comfort or reassurance and whispering encouragement, doulas have their eye more on the mother than the baby being born.  They nurture their clients during childbirth by anticipating their needs.
  6. Both the Cochrane Collaboration’s Pregnancy & Childbirth Group in Oxford, England and the World Health Organisation (WHO) state that “continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm”.
  7. Fears disappear like mist before the sun when women have doula support and the World Health Organisation agree.  They state that women who are supported in this way “have reported less fear and distress during labour, which also appeared to act as a buffer against adverse aspects of medical interventions“.
  8. Lastly (and in my humble opinion, most magically), continuous support has been viewed by some as a form of pain relief, specifically, as an alternative to epidural analgesia (Dickinson 2002).  Bet you didn’t know that!

Surprised by this list? Which magical fact surprised you most?