Recently, the word has come to signify a birth companion – a woman who supports another woman (or a couple) during pregnancy, birth and in the postnatal period.
Across many cultures and times, mothers, sisters, friends and neighbours have supported a birthing woman. Perhaps this will be common in our own societies again one day. However, for the moment, specially trained doulas like me are increasingly stepping in to fill this ancient role. Birth doulas have a good knowledge and awareness of female physiology BUT they cannot provide support in a clinical role - this is the role of the midwife and medical staff. Doula's will support the mother with any choices she makes for the birth of her baby and will encourage the mother with her wishes and plans on birth. Most importantly she stays by the side of the mother and parents as long as birth takes, offering calm reassurance and physical support.
Studies show that women who are attended by doulas have
- shorter labours
- fewer interventions and complications
- Decreases the chance of caesarean section by 50%
- Decreases the need for pain medication
- their babies are better able to breastfeed