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 …
- 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.
- 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?
- 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%!
- 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?
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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“.
- 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?
I won’t forget the moment my oldest was placed on my chest, seconds after birth. I had enjoyed the freedom of birthing at home in the presence of my then husband, my midwife and her assistant. We had alternated walks around the garden with wallowing in a deep bath and/or listening to music and stories told by my partner as my endorphin levels increased enough to leave me feeling on a natural high….and thus better to cope with the discomfort of labour. Until, seven hours later and a few strong pushes, Rachel meeowed her way into the world. Easily the most sacred and powerful moment of my life.
Taking in this beautiful, mysterious being, I lifted my eyes to say thank you to my support people but met their shared gaze … pride mixed with joy … instead. In that moment I knew that I too would assist women in their journey into motherhood one day.
Seventeen months later, I enjoyed a second homebirth with the same team. The admiration I held for midwives deepened as they supported me through a shorter, slightly more complicated labour, resulting in Eden’s noisy but safe and joyful arrival. Pride and joy, intertwined once more between them and myself. Yes, we were a team and we’d done this together.
Where my first two birth experiences were phenomenal, the third possessed a beauty, and almost magical quality, not yet experienced. The difference? This time I was blessed not just with the knowledgeable and experienced presence of my midwife but a doula also. Her soft-spoken, gentle encouragements washed over me in waves counteracting the physical surges overwhelming my body. Her knowing hands touching, resting or massaging in just the right places, alleviated discomfort. Until, in the early hours of a March morning, Zara made her way through my body and into my arms….
My name is Joy King. I’m a WOMBS (Women Offering Mothers Birth Support) Doula, based in the Far South of the Cape Peninsula, Cape Town. My services however reach across the south peninsula and into the city.
This site is dedicated to sharing information relating to the continuous support of women in labour.
Feel free to browse through the testimonial section of this site to read some of the birth stories of families I’ve supported. They’re lovely 🙂
Where most people understand the role of midwives, doula support on the other hand, is a lesser known entity.
Our role however, is steadily gaining ground as the one who “holds space”; is comfortable with silence and waiting. She possesses a toolbox of natural birth and labour resources (including the use of massage, essential oils, herbs, tinctures, visualisation, et al) and is committed to supporting the mother towards the kind of birth she desires, as well as aiming to leave her with the memory of a positive birth experience. She is well-versed in the physiology of labour and birth and keeps up-to-date with evidence-based research: information with which she readily empowers her clients.
I believe a woman and her partner must be able to trust their doula to support and enhance their birth experience within safe and secure boundaries. Within these boundaries, the doula provides a safe, gentle and calm space where the labouring mother can allow her body to do what it’s physiologically and naturally designed to do.
I believe in, and understand, the birth process and a woman’s ability to birth. As a mother, I am able to provide a woman in labour with the vital emotional support of someone who knows what labour feels like. It’s not just about getting the mother to work through her labour but helping her to trust her own body with the birth process.
In putting together your birth-day team, consider a birth and labour companion who is able to express empathy, is sincere, kind, reliable, dependable, has a sense of humour, is caring, confident, professional, truthful, innovative, clean and tidy, firm but gentle and last, but not least, respectful of her client and her partner.