You might think that doulas are a modern phenomena, the latest new birth accessory, but in actual fact crazy birth-obsessed women like me have been around in one way or another for centuries. Within every community there was always a woman or a group of women who specialised in pregnancy and birth and who the local mothers went to when their time came to birth. These women had a knowledge of the birth process and offered calm and loving support before, during and after a baby was born. Traditionally new mums would languish in their beds with their babies at the breast for weeks after a birth, whilst the women in their community did all the hard graft, feeding them and keeping the house in order. Sadly modern life just isn’t like that anymore and increasingly new mums live a long way from their families, they can feel overwhelmed and isolated by the huge impact having a new baby can have. This is where having a doula can fill the gap which is forever widening because of the extreme pressures placed on the midwives, maternity units and health visitors. Doulas don’t replace midwives, partners or family members, they provide continuous support and an extra pair of hands.
WHY HAVE A DOULA?
In recent years women are less likely to have one to one care throughout their labours as resources are becoming more stretched. The modern trend is to have babies in hospital but that has meant an increase in the amount of medically managed births and ultimately a rise in assisted deliveries and caesarean births.
Research has shown that having a Doula:
Shortens first-time labour by an average of 2 hours
Decreases the chance of caesarean section by 50%
Decreases the need for pain medication
Helps fathers to participate with confidence
Increases success with breastfeeding
Findings from “Mothering the Mother”
Klaus,Kennell and Klaus, 1993
For those of you who like facts and figures here is the latest study to highlight the benefits of continuous support during birth.
In the postnatal period women were traditionally surrounded by extended family mothers, sisters, aunts etc. But those days have gone. Many women have very little support and find the new world of motherhood a daunting place to be. Having a doula during the first weeks at home can really ease the pressures put upon new parents in modern society. A doula will “mother the mother” giving her the support she needs to be able to look after herself and her family effectively.
WHY HAVE A DOULA IF I HAVE A PARTNER?
A doula will be there to support not replace the father. Many men feel totally unprepared for the labour process and for bringing home a new baby. Watching their loved one in labour can be very stressful for dads and they benefit from having a doula there to reassure them as well as to help them to support their partner effectively. Labour wards can be very hectic and daunting, a doula will help to explain what is happening during labour and provide information as it is needed. Doula’s are trained to know when to be hands on and when to step back and allow you and your partner to be alone. They can also allow the father to have some rest when he needs it, safe in the knowledge he will not be leaving you on your own.
DOULAS AND A MIDWIVES.
A doulas role is not a medical one, so although I have a good understanding of the physiology of birth and will be able to help you get to grips with a lot of the terminology and techinical stuff I am there for support and continuity. Doulas are not there to replace the midwife and do not interfere with their work at all, I have always enjoyed a warm welcome from all the midwives I have encountered.
Midwives are often looking after several mums at the same time and cannot always stay with you throughout labour, a doula is there solely for you and will not leave until your baby is safely in your arms.
“Sarah has been a great help during my pregnancy and birth. She came with me to several of my antenatal appointments before the birth and was great company during the hours of waiting! It was really reassuring to discuss my worries and concerns with Sarah before my appointments so that when the time came to talk with the consultant, I knew what my biggest questions were. Although Sarah did not attend my birth (planned section, only one person allowed in the room), her help on the day was crucial and she was right there waiting for me afterwards and a huge help in the hours after birth. She did also bring some lovely food to feed us after we got back home from the hospital. I’m really pleased to have had the company of such a great lady!”
M.D mum to the gorgeous baby R.