What Is A Doula And Do I Need One?

June 9, 2014
Doula, pregnancy, midwife, pregnancy support, labour,

The word doula (pronounced doo-luh) is described in the Oxford dictionary as “a woman who gives support, help and advice to another woman during pregnancy and after the birth.”  The word is derived from the Greek word ‘doule’ which means ‘female slave’, although I don’t want to associate the term slave with a doula.  They are more like a constant companion, a mother, ready to offer physical and emotional support throughout the pregnancy, birth and post natal stages.

Some women choose to have a doula if they are giving birth at a large hospital where they will meet multiple doctors and midwives.  They want one constant support person who they can form a bond with and feel like they can turn to at any time for support if they need it.

Having a doula has many other advantages, too: 

  • They help the parents to develop a birth plan
  • They provide emotional support during pregnancy and labour, easing fears and answering any questions parents may have
  • They help the parents at home to prepare for the arrival of their baby
  • They help to build self-confidence during pregnancy so the mother will feel empowered and ready to tackle labour when the time comes
  • A doula supports a mother physically during labour and is continuously by her side, giving advice on positions and techniques to help ease pain
  • They help the father to interact with the mother during birth and give tips on how they can help
  • They provide post natal support and assistance with breast feeding

One thing to note is that a doula does not provide medical advice or perform clinical procedures – that is entirely up to the midwife and doctor.  They do not make decisions regarding your medical care but they can offer assistance to enhance the communication between the parents and medical staff. 

Some prospective doulas study at the Australian Doula College where they will work towards their Certificate IV in Doula Support Services over a period of twenty weeks.  The course covers a range of topics including homebirths, hospital policies and procedures, post natal issues, breastfeeding and the mechanics of labour.  They are well educated and a lot of them have given birth before so they understand what it’s like to be pregnant and give birth.   

The cost of a doula depends on how experienced they are and how involved you want them to be throughout pregnancy and birth.  Trainee doulas can be hired for a set number of visits for a couple of hundred dollars while the most experienced doulas who spend ample time with you can charge thousands. 

If you’re feeling uneasy about your pregnancy and the impending birth or you feel as though you need some extra support and guidance, then a doula could definitely be for you.  For some women having a doula is like having an angel, there to guide and nurture them in times of need.  Not only that, but you’ll probably make a lifelong friend too. 

Image via Pregnancy.about.com 

By Karyn Miller

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