“What do you do?”, “I am a doula”.
What is a Doula?
The word ‘doula’ comes from Greece, and refers to a woman in service of another woman. A doula accompanies a woman in labour, to provide physical, emotional, and educational support, to ensure a more satisfying birthing experience. She does not perform clinical tasks such as fetal heart rate monitoring, nor does she make medical diagnoses. A doula will not make decisions for the woman in labour, but will provide all information and support for the lady to make informed decisions.
Studies have found that birth companions, of which doulas are one type, offer numerous benefits both to the mother and child. Women with support have a reduction in the duration of labour, less use of pain relief medication, lower rates of instrumental vaginal delivery, and in many studies, a reduction in caesarian deliveries.
Newborns in supported births have lower rates of fetal distress, and fewer are admitted to neonatal intensive care units. In addition, one study found that 6 weeks after delivery, a greater proportion of doula-supported women, compared to a control group, were breastfeeding, and these women reported greater self-esteem, less depression, and a higher regard for their babies and their ability to care for them. These results are similar to the findings of studies around support from a female relative during childbirth.
One study found doula support without childbirth classes to be more helpful than childbirth classes alone, as measured by levels of emotional distress and self-esteem evaluated at an interview 4 months after birth. In particular, it was noted that women in the doula-supported group reported their infants as less fussy than the group attending childbirth class without any doula support.
For a short video on doulas, done by CNN, click here
Birth support is is as ancient as birth itself. It’s not uncommon to hear females of the species support the labouring mother in many mammals. More so for humans, since one of our basic needs is social interaction. Over the many years, the shape and colour of support may have changed, but the flavour of birth support is many hands and hearts and womanly wisdom taking us through our reproductive journey. It’s traditional, cultural, and social; it’s what works well for us.
Image Source : Corbis | Jessica Rockwell Photography