Why Hire a Doula??
This is a question that can’t really be answered until you know what a Doula is. So first we will look at What is a Doula? There is a plethora of reasons for hiring a Doula, including evidence-based statistics and emotional reasons. We will explore what a Doula does. And importantly what a Doula doesn’t do.
What is a Doula??
The term “Doula” originated from Greek language and it means “woman servant”. It is one of the most ancient roles in Human Civilisation. Thankfully, the role and meaning of a Doula has moved with the times also.
There are different ways people will describe a Doula. One is ‘A non-clinical professional present during pregnancy, birth & the postpartum period’ and another is ‘Doulas are present to serve the labouring person as they work hard to bring baby into this world, for both physical and emotional support.’
Doulas are pursuing their passion for pregnancy, babies & birth.
Labour and delivery are the most precious and intense parts of life and a Doula’s sole role is to serve and support the labouring person and birth team.
Now you know What a Doula Is!
Which is generally something most people won’t know or have even heard of. Even those who have heard of a Doula, don’t always actually know what it is they do. In all honesty, I was one of those people. When I had my first baby, I had never heard of the term Doula, I didn’t even know there was a big world of birth preparation, education and support out with the NHS.
When I had my second, I discovered this world and felt very prepared to give birth. Little did I know….
In hindsight, I truly believe a Doula would have had a positive impact on my giving birth. ‘Just about EVERY person can benefit from a Doula experience.’
After the birth of my children, I got involved in the birth worker world with The Daisy Foundation and after 3 years, I still love soaking up knowledge and continuing to pursue my passion for all things birth and baby. I truly believe in birth rights and body autonomy. Our care system can make this hard. I was raised to not question professionals, as they know best. Even now as an adult it is difficult to change this mindset. When I gave birth to my second child, I did my research, felt confident about my birth and my choices, and had confidence in my birth partner to help advocate if I couldn’t.
As soon as my care provider ‘told’ me what I was and wasn’t ‘allowed’ in my labour, I didn’t question it, as they were the professional and knew best.
This led to a birth that was filled with interventions that were potentially unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, I feel very lucky as I had a very positive birth experience, and I did feel in control of lots of aspects of the birth and attending Daisy Birthing classes played a big part in it.
But for lots of people this isn’t the case, as a birth worker I see this impact. There is only so much that can be done to help the birth person realise the power they have and facilitate their education in such a short space of time.
Having a Doula can come from a mental need for support and for someone to hold that space for you. There are also lots of benefits that statistics show.
So, let’s look at these!
Evidence-Based Birth states the use of a Doula means there is a:
· 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin
· 28% decrease in the risk of caesarean section
· 12% increase in the likelihood of spontaneous vaginal birth
· 9% decrease in the use of pain relief medications
· 14% decrease in the risk of new-borns admitted to NICU
· 34% decrease in risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience.
As these statistics show, there are better outcomes and an improved experience. This is due to the duration of the labour shortening alongside the lowering of caesareans and the use of instruments. Birth is intense, a Doula can provide a calm, encouraging presence, which can eliminate fear and therefore decrease pain. Well informed & non-judgemental Doula support helps the birthing person to adjust when circumstances deviate from their ideal birth plan. Guidance and encouragement minimise fear & anxiety. This leads to increased parental satisfaction.
A Doula is not only just there for your birth though.
Educational support and information are given prior to labour and delivery, they will assist with the birth plan/wish list and explain integral parts of the experience. They thrive on helping you understand what your body is doing, what is natural, what is not & what your options are.
A Doula will be at your birth no matter what, no matter where, no matter when. They’re on call from 2 weeks before and until 2 weeks after. They commit to being at your birth, a duty that isn’t taken lightly. And amazingly it improves outcome equality across the socioeconomic divide. Access to Doulas mitigates negative influence that economic & social factors have on birth outcomes.
And if all these amazing statistics and outcome differences aren’t enough, there is more.
Think about what a Doula does, can do and will do for both you and your birthing team.
There will be knowledge and experience offered during labour and delivery, as well as reassurance, encouragement and comfort. These are a Doula’s strongest tools of trade alongside helping with pain management and comfort inducing, that comes in the form of foot and back rubs in labour, pressure point massage, counter pressure, rebozo techniques and water comfort. Birth partners can benefit greatly from this too, as they can panic or become anxious whilst watching a loved one in labour. A Doula can offer to show the partner how they can serve the birthing person. A Doula will support you no matter what happens.
Think about Advocacy – this is defined as supporting the birth person in their right to make decisions about their own body and baby. If this isn’t enough, a Doula works for YOU, no worries of thinking or having interest in anything but your birthing experience, you, your baby, and your birth plan.
A Doula will never ask “Have you had your baby yet?”- they will tell you to listen to your body & baby. During your labour there will be no leaving at a shift change, they will be there for the entire experience, telling you that you are beautiful, believing you are beautiful, because you are, and building you up, as you’re an amazing incredible human who is about to give birth to another amazing and incredible human.
You are never going to forget your birthing experience! And your Doula probably won’t either. It is special to your Doula too and a great privilege. As birth is a team effort, a Doula will allow for your birth partner to eat, grab a cuppa or go to the bathroom, all whilst knowing you are not alone. This helps your birth partner to take care of themselves and allows them to better support you.
It is important to know that for all the things a Doula can do, there are things they DON’T do. They:
· DON’T perform clinical tasks
· DON’T give medical advice
· DON’T make decisions for clients
· DON’T pressure the birthing person into certain choices
· DON’T take over the role of birth partner
· And they DON’T catch the baby!
So, I guess the question I would ask now instead of Why Hire a Doula?