As modern urban dwellers, us humans have tried to sanitise a lot of the natural physical processes that people go through, including birth and death. But this isn’t necessarily beneficial to us. When it comes to giving birth, we need to let go of the fear and embrace this incredibly powerful process that our bodies go through, to bring another life into the world.
And luckily, more people are turning to doulas these days in order to help them do this. But what is a ‘doula’? Here are five things you may not know about them.
It has its origins in Greece. The word ‘doula’ comes from the Greek language and translates to ‘woman who serves’. It’s a person who’s been trained to give you emotional and physical support before, during, and after childbirth. Some medical aid programmes like Fedhealth will even cover the cost of a doula, because they want you to have the most positive birthing experience possible.
A doula is different from a midwife, and they play different roles. How? Well, typically, they are not formally trained in medicine, unlike midwives and doctors. In the case of writer Pamela Power’s birthing experience, her doula remained with her at the early stages of the birthing process, and then called the midwife once she was needed. “For my daughter’s birth I had two doulas… they gave me reflexology and were like my cheerleading team, telling me how wonderful I was. When the time came, they woke the midwife up and we got down to business,” she says.
A doula does not make your partner/husband/boyfriend feel superfluous. The extent to which a doula replaces or enhances the care provided by your partner is up to you. Many women find having the support of other trained women more useful at this stage, especially if they’re experienced in the birthing process (unlike their husband/partner who may not be).
Your partner can always be there for the actual arrival of the baby and doesn’t necessarily need to be by your side the entire time. This also gives them time to rest before the big moment when they meet their child. Besides supporting mothers, doulas are also experienced in handling hysterical partners! So, they’ll go a long way to helping everyone feel less anxious about what you’re all going through together.
Doulas work WITH doctors; they don’t necessarily replace them. Doulas and midwives are trained to know when it’s time to call in the gynaecologist or doctor, especially in the case of you needing an emergency Caesarean section. “I gave birth in the hospital’s natural birth unit – and I felt safe knowing we had back-up,” says Pamela. She also says that in terms of expense, her natural births cost a fraction of what a Caesarean may have. “Best of all, a few hours after the birth, I was up and ready to go home,” she ends.
Doulas provide many kinds of pre-, during and post-birth support. Besides lessening anxiety, providing physical advice and even taking photographs (if you’d like that), doulas also provide post-partum care, like coming to your home a few days after the birth to check how breastfeeding is going, and even give you a relaxing massage.
All in all, doulas are there to guide and help you reduce the need for medical intervention and achieve your ideal birthing plan, by supporting you and making the birthing process safe but most of all, empowering.