• Tess

What is a doula? And why might I need one?

The role of a Doula and why a pregnant person might consider having one

(Last updated August 2020)

Birth is a whole lot more than having a baby. It's a rite of passage, a new phase of your journey, a time to enquire and evolve in new ways as a human being.

An opportunity to connect with your body, your baby, with nature and with birthing traditions and practices which feed your soul.

Birth is an everyday occurrence and utterly extraordinary all in the same breath. It can be incredibly empowering and positive, forming vastly unique and different trajectories. There is no perfect theres just you way. Birth is an everyday occurrence and utterly extraordinary all in the same breath.

Your approach, mind-set and attitude to birth will directly impact and shape your birthing experience. As Robyn Lim says;

“Birthing is the most profound initiation to spirituality a woman can have.”

Over the years these are questions I have been asked, and which often come up when the name ‘doula’ enters the conversation;

  • 'What is a 'Doula?'

  • ‘Why would I need one?’

  • ‘What's the difference between a doula and a midwife?’

  • ‘Why would I pay, when maternity care is free?’

So lets talk about what doulas do. And what place doulas hold, alongside our current system of maternity care.

Sadly birth trauma as a result of obstetric violence is on the rise. Both research and experience testifies that the support of a doula, positively impacts on a birthing persons wellbeing and experiences during pregnancy, birth and in the post partum period. Birth is utterly unique, and is why, birthing people need continuity of care to ensure needs and wishes are met. Why we need to ensure through education and support we create a positive view of birth and change the culture where fear and pain come top of the list, when talking about birth.

Continuity of care is not something our current maternity care system can offer. Research shows that continuity of care, is one of the most significant factors regarding positive outcomes and experiences of birthing people. Birthing people are the experts when it comes to their body and their baby. To increase positive experiences, they need to be loved, listened to and supported, to explore their beliefs about birth, identify their needs and wishes and process the information presented to them so they understand and make informed choices regarding the advice and procedures being offered to them. Fundamentally encouraging the birthing person to focus on their innate abilities, and to trust their intuition, on a deep, cellular level.

So here is where a doula comes in.

Birth keeper I Baby catcher I Moon mother I Doula

All the above, describe someone who offers support to a birthing person. In pregnancy, birth, post natally or at all these times. For some these names and this role, maybe unfamiliar, but in many cultures around the world, this person is a highly respected and necessary part of birthing practice.

“The way a woman gives birth can affect the whole of the rest of her life. How can that not matter? Unless the woman herself does not matter.”

Beverley Beech and Belinda Phipps.

What does the research say?

Research clearly shows that birthing people who have continual care, support and trust of an additional birth support or doula are significantly less likely to request pain relief, need medical intervention and have higher levels of satisfaction regarding their birth experiences.

Researched benefits of a doula:

  • Reduced risk of instrumental birth (forceps, ventouse)

  • Reduced need for painkillers or epidural during birth by 60%

  • Reduced risk of Caesarean birth by 50%

  • Reduction need for induction of labour by 40%

  • Shorter labour, with labour time reduced by 25%

  • Increased parental satisfaction with the birth experience

  • Increased likelihood of initiating breastfeeding

  • Increased likelihood of successfully establishing breastfeeding & to be breastfeeding at 6 weeks

Here's what I believe a doula can offer;

Continuity of Care (Doula support starts whenever you decide - some people get a doula early on in pregnancy to support right through and for some its something they come to later on - there is no perfect, just what feels right for you). Research shows that the continuous support and presence of a second birth support of choice, is beneficial for wellbeing and increases the likelihood of the birthing person reporting positive experiences.

Emotional and Mental Support in Pregnancy, Birth and Post Birth - encouragement, praise, reassurance, love, care and attention - helping to foster a positive mindset and cultivate emotional connection and security is vital to supporting the birthing person to achieve a positive experience. A doula supports you to listen to your intuition, to believe and trust in yourself, your baby and your body.