What On Earth Is a Doula?
If the word Doula means nothing to you then don’t panic – it seems like a lot of people have never heard of it before. But it is a thing and it kind of has the ability to change the way women in Ireland experience birth.
The word Doula is Greek in origin. It translates as “woman servant” or “caregiver” in relation to a woman’s birthing experience. She attended the woman’s birth and post-partum stages to offer help and support. These days the term has become synonymous with empowering women to experience a more positive birthing experience.
There are different types of Doulas. They are usually mothers themselves. Some are specifically there to support a woman during pregnancy and birth and others can do the very same thing in the weeks following the birth of the baby. They have a huge thing in common though – their aim is to support the mother. This support is both physical and emotional. For this reason, the role of the Doula is an incredibly important one. It has a huge impact on a woman’s experience of motherhood from the moment she conceives right up to caring for her baby.
The agreement and expectations can vary from mother to mother but in many cases, a Doula will attend some antenatal appointments as well as supporting the mother by maintaining a good stream of communication through text, email or phone calls.
A Doula is hugely supportive of Midwifery care and will work alongside your midwifery team to support you throughout your pregnancy. Unlike a midwife, a Doula will not recommend or administer medical treatment. She has been employed by you and is therefore independent of the care you receive medically in a hospital or birthing centre. She may end up being your birthing partner or present at your home-birth but she will not advise you on medical issues. Many women enjoy the dedicated support and care during the actual birthing experience as this level of attention is not always possible in our busy maternity hospitals.
The care that Doulas may offer post-partum can really make a difference. The help and support can range from helping you to establish and continue breastfeeding right down to light chores around the house and being a sympathetic ear when you are struggling with the emotional side of this massive life change. A Doula will have built up a unique relationship with you and will recognise that there is nothing general about this post-partum stage. She will appreciate that every family and situation is different and will help you based on your particular needs and concerns.
If you are considering a Doula but feel some concerns about how it will make your partner feel then perhaps consider that a woman’s partner is often the greatest advocate of a Doula. By supporting the woman the Doula in turn reassures the partner too. She offers the kind of support that benefits the whole family unit and many partners will go on to say that they couldn’t imagine the experience without a Doula. The role of the Doula is not to replace the partner. It is to offer support, help and make things more comfortable for her.
The testimonials after Doula care are extraordinarily positive. Some of the statistics point at up to a 50% reduction rate in the instance of Caesarian when a Doula is present. It is becoming increasingly more popular in Ireland we can really see why.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.loveofliving.ie.