“If doulas were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it”- Dr. John H. Kennel
A doula provides non-medical continuous physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period to you and your partner to help you achieve the most satisfying experience possible.
What does a doula do?
It varies from doula to doula based on their experience and other qualifications. Some are only “birth doulas”, that is, they offer prenatal care, attend births and may provide support up to 6 weeks post birth. Whereas “postpartum doulas” offer support for the first year after birth.
Birth Doulas Support:
A birth doula provides the continuity of care that most hospitals are unable to provide. They usually meet with you several times before your baby’s estimated due date to build rapport and establish trust. These meetings are an opportunity to discuss your birth wishes, previous births, fears, ask questions and receive guidance on writing your Birth Preferences.
A birth doulas is usually on- call 24 hours a day for 2 weeks before and for 2 weeks after your baby’s estimated due date.
When you go into labour, they’ll help you decide whether or not you’re in established labour and if it’s best to stay home or go to the hospital.
Your birth doula won’t usually arrive in your home or at the hospital until you’re in established labour.
Whether you’re having a homebirth or hospital birth with a midwife or an obstetrician, a doula will be a constant presence during your labour and birth. She’ll ensure that you feel private, safe and unobserved so that your body produces endorphins- Nature’s pain relief.
She may offer natural pain management techniques, remind you to rest between surges to avoid exhaustion and offer suggestions for positioning to make you more comfortable and to help your labour progress.
If you and your partner have done Hypnobirthing, she may prompt your partner to read you affirmations and visualisations, read self- hypnosis scripts to help you relax, use anchor touch or light touch massage or remind him to use acupressure points.
After you deliver your baby, she’ll encourage you to have skin to skin with your baby, sit upright and breastfeed to deliver your placenta naturally (without syntocinon).
If for any reason you can’t have skin to skin with your baby after birth, she’ll support your birth partner in doing so.
Doulas provide emotional support to you and your partner during labour and birth. They’ll offer reassurance and encourage you to help you feel safe and empowered.
Doulas will act as your advocate by communicating your Birth Preferences to your Care Providers and may translate medical terminology for you. If a situation arises where you need to make a decision, she may speak with your Care Providers on your behalf (so you can stay calm and relaxed) and ask for more time or what your options are (if you and your baby aren’t in danger) so you can make informed decisions and have your birthing preferences honoured.
Postnatal/ Postpartum Doula Support:
After birth your doula will usually leave you and your partner to spend time getting to know your baby. She’ll usually come and visit you within a week after birth to debrief your birth and answer any questions. This may be the only postnatal visit for a birth doula.
Much like birth doula’s, the services that Postnatal Doula’s provide depends on their experience and background and other qualifications.
Prior to your baby’s arrival, your postnatal doula may meet with you and your partner prior to birth to help you:
- Create Your Postpartum Vision: your postnatal doula will help you prepare for a positive postpartum. She may help you clarify what a positive postpartum means to you, identify your fears and help you to release them.
- Build Your Village: your postnatal doula may help you build your village by helping you identify where you can get physical and emotional support, help you find free support or where you may need to pay for support.
- Create Your Sanctuary: your postnatal doula may help you to decide where in your house it will be best to bunker down with your baby in the first 6 weeks after birth, how to make it comfortable and practical for you and your baby.
- Prepare To Eat Good Food: your postnatal doula may help you meal plan, stock your pantry, fill your freezer and set up a meal train to ensure you nourish and heal yourself with good food in the first 6 weeks after birth.
After your baby arrives, they may provide support for the first 6 weeks up to the first year after birth and support may include face to face visits, phone and text support or zoom calls.
Your postnatal doula will bridge the gaps and become anything you need… whether it be your confidant, your best friend or your cheerleader. They’ll offer an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on as you talk about the joys and challenges of mamahood.
Your postnatal doula may offer a weekly or monthly Mother’s Circle either face to face to virtually to meet other mothers and receive support.
Your postnatal doula may facilitate a private facebook group for you to connect with other mothers, ask questions and receive support.
During a face to face visit, your postnatal doula may cook you a meal or do light housework such as changing your sheets, washing the dishes or folding your laundry. Or they may hold your baby while you shower, enjoy a hot cup of tea, have a nap or go for a walk to get some fresh air.
They may also provide resources on newborn care and breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
Do I need a Doula?
Support is one of the key ingredients for a positive birth and postpartum. This support may be in the form of a birth partner and caregivers that support your preferences. The problem with our current model of care, is that it doesn’t offer continuity of care. For example, if you choose a Public Hospital then you may see a different midwife at every prenatal visit and have a number of different midwives attend your birth. Postnatally, a midwife may visit your home (depending on which model of care you’ve chosen) in the first 6 weeks after birth to provide baby care but this system is not a mother- centric model.
A doula’s main role is to care for the mother.
How Do I Find A Doula?
For Birth Doulas, The Australian Doula College has a Doula Directory. If you have an idea of the kind of doula you’re looking for, give them a call and ask them if they can recommend someone who matches your criteria.
For Postpartum Doulas, Newborn Mothers Directory is a great place to start.
Once you have a shortlist, arrange to meet with them for an informal tea and chat and ask them any questions. The most important thing is that you both feel comfortable with one another and you both think you’re a good fit.
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