Doula – By Jennifer Walker
When you relocate to a new country there is always much to learn. What happens when you combine moving to a foreign country with becoming pregnant? The learning curve can be pretty steep!
Having an experienced support person to guide you during your pregnancy and offer continuous physical and emotional support during labour can be extremely beneficial- studies have shown that it reduces complications, interventions and the length of labour. This professional support person is known as a Doula- but until recently in Holland a Doula was a virtually unknown profession.
What is a Doula?
The word Doula comes from a Greek word meaning “a woman who serves” and in Greece has more the meaning “slave”. Medical researchers Marshall Klaus and John Kennell, who conducted the first of several randomized clinical trials on the medical outcomes of doula attended births, adopted the term to refer to labor support as well as prenatal and postpartum support.
A doula is an experienced, professionally trained woman who provides emotional support, physical comfort and assistance in obtaining information before, during and after childbirth for the woman and her partner. This support can take on many forms and is different for each couple- a doula tailors the support she provides according to the needs of the couple.
A “birth doula” will meet with you and your partner during your pregnancy to discuss your birth wishes, expectations and needs. During labour she will provide continues support until a few hours after baby is born.
This support may be:
- Emotional Support- encouragement, reassurance, continuous presence.
- Practical Support- practical knowledge, information and translation on the dutch health care system, remain objective and can help you communicate most effectively with your medical caregivers.
- Physical Support- comfort measures, positioning, massage, relaxation and other non-medical pain relief measures
- Partner Support- help your partner feel confident in supporting you, encouragement, reassurance.
Is a doula a midwife ?
There are a few things a doula is not. She is not a nurse or midwife, so she does not provide clinical care such as doing examinations on you or checking your baby’s heartbeat. The support a doula provides is non-clinical, it fits together with, but does not replace, the care of your doctor, midwife, or nurses.
Doulas do not make decisions for you, or speak for you. This is your body your birth and your baby. A doula supports you by providing information you may ask for about your choices, but it’s always you who decides what’s best for you.
Women supported by a doula during labor have been shown to have:
- 50% reduction in cesarean rate
- 25% shorter labor
- 60% reduction in epidural requests
- 30% reduction in analgesic use
- 40% reduction in forceps delivery
- 6 weeks after birth, mothers who had doulas were:
- Less anxious and depressed
- Had more confidence with baby
- More satisfied with partner (71% vs 30%)
- More likely to be breastfeeding (52% vs. 29%)
These statistics appear in “A Doula Makes the Difference” by Nugent in Mothering Magazine, March-April 1998.
Choosing a Doula
The most important thing to consider when choosing a doula, is do you feel comfortable with her? Does it feel like a good match? Does she listen and respond to your needs? “The Doula Book” by Klaus, Klaus and Kennell is an excellent, simply written guide to how a a trained labour Companion can help you have a shorter, easier and healthier birth.
In January 2006 a training program for Doula’s in the Netherlands began, the first of these doula’s were certified in September 2006. Some doula’s are also certified via international programs such as DONA International or Childbirth International.
Jennifer Walker , Doula