A labour doula is an experienced, knowledgeable and nurturing companion that comes along side a mother and her family before, during and after labour. A labour doula accompanies you throughout your labour offering non-medical, physical and emotional support. A doula is a valuable member of your support team if this is your 1st, 2nd or even 6th baby!
What does a labour doula do?
A labour doula supports the mother and her family by:
– helping to prepare an individual birth plan (if desired)
– supporting home and hospital births
– helping you advocate for yourself with care givers
– being prepared to meet your physical and emotional needs throughout your labour
– making suggestions for labour positions
– aiding with breathing techniques
– offering breastfeeding support soon after birth
A doula does not:
– take the place of your partner
– perform any medical tasks
– make decisions for the labouring mother or her support partner
Why should I hire a doula?
A doula's experience, knowledge and skills in childbirth, nurturing and encouragement are valuable resources to a labouring mother. Studies* show that when a doula is supporting a labouring mother her overall labour tends to be shorter, there is less need for medical interventions, such as pain medication, assisted delivery and Caesarean birth and the woman has a greater satisfaction with her birth experience. Doulas stay with the labouring mother from whenever she requests the to doula to arrive at the beginning of her labour until a few hours after delivery. She provides continuous care, guidance and encouragement. A doula is there to care for the mother first and foremost.
My partner will be with me why do I need a doula?
Part of a labour doula's role is to support your partner as well. A doula can guide your partner in comfort measures, keep your partner calm and informed, and allow your partner to take care of personal matters or update family and friends all while making sure you are never alone. A doula can also reassure your partner that things are progressing normally, help form questions for your care providers, help your partner understand medical language and remember what was taught in the childbirth classes!
I have a midwife can I still have a doula?
Absolutely! Doulas and midwives make a great team. A midwife's main responsibility is to ensure that mom and baby are healthy from a medical point of view, while a doula is there to support the mother without the medical responsibility, which means she is able to focus on the labouring mother comfort and emotional needs 100%.
I plan on having a home birth will I be able to have a doula?
Doulas support both home and hospital births. It is a good idea to make sure your doula is familiar with the layout of your home prior to going into labour so she knows where to find anything you might require during labour so you don't have to worry about it.
What is the doula's role in regards to Caesarean deliveries?
Whether you have a scheduled Caesarean planned or end up needing one unexpectedly a doula can help. A doula's role extends beyond comfort measures for vaginal deliveries, and she can help plan the best scheduled Caesarean delivery for you and your partner. She can also be there to encourage you, make sure you understand the process and recovery, and help you establish breastfeeding and skin to skin as soon as possible following the birth.
When should I hire a doula?
The sooner the better! Doulas are on call for you for a month and their spaces can fill up quickly. You should aim to have your doula in place by the beginning of your third trimester to give you enough time to get to know each other, explore birth options and get the information you need to make the best decisions for your care.
* Cochrane review 2010