WHEN IN DOUBT, DOULA
A doula was first described to me as a mother to the mother in labour. Whereas a midwife or doctor’s main concern is for the delivery of a healthy baby, the doula’s focus is solely on the mother’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing throughout the process of labour and childbirth. Like a midwife, they can support you in a home or hospital setting. They provide constant support to the mother in the form of physical touch, massage techniques, counterpressure, suggestions, words of encouragement, coping strategies and holding space. They may also provide equipment or other aides to assist in pain management and coping, such as a TENS machine or essential oils. Doulas use training and intuition to assess the emotional state of the labouring mother, calmly respond to ever-changing needs, and act as a guide from start to finish. They can also be an incredible resource in knowledge about the processes of labour and birth ahead of time. Having someone you trust is important, but don’t get caught up in the worry about being embarrassed or uncomfortable having a third party in that sacred space of yours. A professional doula will respect your wishes, give your privacy as needed and offer help non-intrusively. Your husband, partner, mother or best friend can offer you a lot of love and support, but they do not have the expertise or familiarity with the birth spectrum that a doula does. A nurse could, without guarantee, offer a similar level of help and comfort, however they will not stay by your side once their shift ends. A family member or friend will very likely have their own expectations, attachments, beliefs and fears that can affect their ability to be there for you wholly. A doula is a constant presence and source of dependable support, as needed. It is reported that having a doula present at a birth results in shorter labours, decreased use of pain medication and interventions, lower rate of cesareans, and mothers report less anxiety than those who do not have the support of a doula.