We've all heard the term. But what does a doula do? And when might you need one? We've teamed up with Expert Doula, Hypnobirthing and Mindful Breastfeeding Coach Laura Berkeley to explain all things doulas.
What is a doula?
A doula pronounced “doo la” is also known as a birth companion and originates from the Ancient Greek word that means ‘female servant’ or ‘slave’. Most Doula’s are women & they are a non-medical person who assists a woman before, during and after childbirth, as well as her partner and/or family by providing information, physical and emotional support. They provide continuous support leading up to birth, during labour and when combined with the help provided from nurses, midwives, family, friends and doctors, is associated with improved maternal & foetal health alongside a variety of other huge benefits.
What else do doulas do?
The list is endless! A doula will not necessarily ‘do’ set things, a doula is someone who will get to know you, get to know your family, discuss all your personal needs and work with you to plan for how they can support you. A doula will often offer many different aspects of support, emotionally, physically and practically. Every mother and new parent’s needs are different, just like every doula is different which is why it’s so important to speak to a few doulas to help you find ‘the one’. Someone that you align with, connect with, that you can trust and feel safe with. A doula will listen, actually they do a lot of listening, which is so necessary, it’s important you are heard, understood and cared for when navigating pregnancy, birth and the journey into parenthood. As Doulas we walk alongside you, we are your informed friend.
Why might you want a doula for pregnancy & birth?
Top tips inspired by Maddie McMahon (check out her incredible book’ Why Doulas Matter)
- Because you want one or need one, you don’t need to justify it, sometimes it’s just a gut feeling of ‘I need that support’
- If you are anxious or wanting support from someone experienced/knowledgeable in parenting and birth
- Someone to listen to you, to hear you, to support you emotionally, to share your thoughts and feelings, for them to be recognized
- For support and for guidance through making birth choices, parenting choices and support with navigating a complex maternity system
- If you don’t have family close by to help you or even if you do, they might not be the right person/people to help in the ways you need
- If you are a single parent and would like practical support, emotional support or both
- If you are working through trauma from a previous birth or life experience that you feel is impacting your current pregnancy
- Planning a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) or if you are expecting two, three or more babies in this pregnancy
- If your partner is fearful, nervous, needs support or if they aren’t that supportive and you feel you need someone else to support you
- If you feel there’s a lack of continuity of care and you would like that continuous support from someone you trust throughout your pregnancy and throughout your labour and birth
- If religious beliefs or cultural practices mean the man/husband/partner is not in the birth room/space with you
- Having that ‘woman to woman’ female support and energy
- If you have previously experienced the loss of a baby and would like to have loving, understanding continuous support
- If your circumstances have changed, you are labelled high risk, are facing a medicalized birth, C-section or induction
- If you are experiencing pressure from the maternity system, aren’t happy with your care or finding it hard to navigate. A doula can advocate for you and support you during appointments, help you ask relevant questions and support you through decision making by providing you with information/evidence
- When planning a home birth – helping with set up, supporting you during labour, perhaps before midwives arrive and supporting your partner too, working as a team
- It depends on the doula as to whether they are comfortable supporting freebirth but a lot will. Free-birthing is birthing without any medical professionals present, birthing in a place of your choice. A doula is not a replacement for a midwife and is unable to provide any medical assistance but can be there to provide you with all the emotional, practical and physical support you need
Why might you want a postnatal doula?
- Life can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially when you enter motherhood, whether it’s your 1st or 5th It’s important to get rest as sleep is interrupted and have someone you can talk to about how you feel, especially in the early days
- If you need help with a toddler or other children so that you can focus on your new baby/babies, bonding and establishing feeding. Alternatively, you might like a doula to help with your new baby so that you can spend quality time with an older child or children
- Practical help around the house, such as light cleaning, organizing, cooking some healthy meals
- You would like support with breastfeeding and to space to focus on getting breastfeeding established
- If you are having or likely to have an abdominal birth, so you can rest and recover. Also help with jobs/chores that might be hard after surgery
- Caring for a new-born can feel like alien territory, especially if you haven’t had much experience with babies or young children. A postnatal doula can be there to guide you, show you how to care for your new-born and support you whilst you build your confidence
- Multiple babies, all hands-on deck! If you are expecting twins, triplets or more babies an extra pair of hands can make the world of difference
- If you have previously suffered from postnatal depression, trauma, PTSD or you’ve had your baby and are currently suffering from postnatal depression. A non-judgemental listening ear can make all the difference
- If you are a single parent with no or little support around you
- If you are worried about bonding or breastfeeding and would like someone with you to support and guide you until you find your feet
- If you have one or more children that have special/additional needs. Or if one or more children have learning difficulties or mental health issues that requires a lot more time and energy
- Getting sleep – a night doula or night nurse/nanny. Regardless of how you feed your baby they can brings you the baby for feeds (if you wish) then the rest of the night you can sleep whilst they do the nappy changes, settling etc! Bliss
- When there might be stressful things going on in life or you are facing difficult circumstances such as a financial issues, bereavement etc
- Support with transitioning to parenthood, if it feels you are losing your sense of identity or need some time to yourself
- To cook for you. Make you a nutritious breakfast or lunch as well as batch cook some nourishing meals for the freezer