I've been a doula for almost 5 years now and during that time the awareness and popularity of engaging the support of a birth doula has already grown significantly. Whilst doulas have been 'a thing' in the US for quite some time and even hospitals employ them, they are slowly but steadily becoming more of a mainstream choice also here in Australia. However, I still meet lots of women who either have never heard of a doula, what she does or even more importantly, WHY you need one so here you go:
First things first: Birth doulas are scientifically proven to significantly reduce medical interventions during birth including caesarean births. How? Why? Well, I promise there's no 'magic' involved but a few things that influence births when a doula is in attendance: A woman who has engaged the support of a doula during her pregnancy is likely much more educated about options and choices during labour that reduce the risk of intervention. She has learnt coping techniques and a doula by her side who will remind her of those (and her strength!) when the going gets tough. She has a woman by her side who she knows and trusts, who is experienced in birth and can make many suggestions to promote the progress of labour. She has continuity, something that women crave a lot during pregnancy and birth, with no shift change but a permanent presence until her baby is born.
A woman with a doula by her side is emotionally prepared for what labour will take from her and what she needs to give...I am yet to experience a woman in my care who goes into 'panic' once labour becomes intense but often hear women hysterically screaming in the rooms around us. Women can be wild, raw, loud during labour but there is a significant difference in the panicky screams (which are usually only silenced by an epidural) of a woman who is feeling completely overwhelmed by what is happening with her and is unsupported in the process. The key word here is 'support' as women who feel held, cared for, reassured, encouraged are much more likely to cope with the intensities of labour and this one of the doulas main roles during a birth: being 100% focused on the physical and emotional needs of the labouring woman. A doula knows what is needed to make a woman feel safe and how the environment needs to be to allow the hormones of labour to flow, or bring them back to flow if you've lost your zone for a moment.
A woman with a doula by her side has a supported and reassured partner who feels confident to carry the intensity of birth with her...together. Doulas do not stand between you and your partner but in fact bring you together, create the space you need to feel comfortable with all that birth is. A partner who understands his role is not to take away your pain by suggesting pain relief. With a doula you have a birth team around you that knows what is important to you, allowing you to focus on what you need to do to bring your baby earthside. Someone who takes care of all the practical stuff without taking your partner away from your side...unless they are keen to take a break in which case you will never be alone.
Now you might have asked yourself in the past if your best friend or a relative such as your mother would be a good birth support for you. My honest answer is that in most scenarios the emotions involved in labour and seeing you in pain can get in the way of women feeling fully supported without worrying about their loved ones around them. On top of that comes the professional knowledge and experience a doula has which allows you to make calm, informed decisions even when you encounter unexpected hurdles.
I find myself thinking that the above is only the tip of the iceberg of what a doula will bring to your pregnancy and birth journey. There is so much more that can make a true difference in how you experience this oh so special time in your life and really, what I want to say to all of you pregnant ladies out there is: Every woman deserves the care, love and support of a doula. Our births stay with us for the rest of our lives so the investment in professional support really needs to be seen in that perspective.
If I have made you curious then hear it for yourself and arrange a completely obligation free meet & greet where I fully introduce myself and the support I offer to families across the Coast. Look at it as research for your birth dream team! Women who hire doulas come from all backgrounds, have different birth dreams, different reasons for hiring a doula, have an obstetrician or are under midwife care at a public hospital or birth at home...there are no restrictions. Join the tribe of women who have positive birth experiences!