The doula effect
Have you ever considered using a doula? If you are currently pregnant, this might be the perfect opportunity for you.
Local resident Allie Campbell is currently training as a doula, and is looking to offer her services, free of charge, to three expectant mums in Cayman. She has already completed a series of workshops, and is now required to attend a further three births in order to become fully certified.
Trained by DONA International, one of the world’s leading doula organisations, Allie wants to help women get the most out of their childbirth experience. She is quick to point out that a doula in no way replaces the role of the medical experts, and that having a doula is not for everyone – but for many women (especially those hoping for natural childbirth), a doula can make a real difference.
Research shows that having a doula present can mean shorter labours and less medical intervention. The acceptance of doulas in maternity care is growing rapidly with the recognition of their contribution to the improved physical outcomes and emotional wellbeing of mothers and infants.
What is a doula?
- A doula provides continuous, uninterrupted, individual support throughout labour, rather than intermittent support you would generally receive from maternity nurses and doctors at the hospital. While doctors and midwives may come and go, and a husband or partner is there not only for his wife but also for his new baby, a doula is there exclusively for mum.
- A doula provides emotional support and offers physical comfort measures, such as changes in position, use of birth balls or water, massage and relaxation/breathing techniques.
- A doula has been trained to recognise and understand the physiology of birth, including the different phases of labour.
- A doula facilitates communication between the mother and the clinical staff, helping her to nurture her birth plan and reminding her of any questions she may want to ask.
- A doula provides an objective viewpoint as well as helping the mother gain access to information needed to make good decisions.
What does a doula NOT do?
- A doula does not make any decisions, as these are entirely up to the mother and her partner. A doula does not instruct or question the medical staff directly.
- A doula does not conduct any clinical steps, such as heart monitoring or vaginal exams.
- A doula does not have any preconceptions or make any judgments. The birth plan is the mother’s own, and the doula is there to support her in her choices, whether a natural birth or otherwise. A doula simply adapts her role accordingly.
How does it work?
- A doula will meet mum-to-be two or three times before birth (usually in the third trimester) to get to know each other and discuss the birth plan.
- A doula is on call from 37 weeks, and will be there from whatever point in labour a mum would like her.
- A doula will be at mum’s side throughout the entire labour, and for a couple of hours post-birth to help with breast-feeding if required.
- A doula will make a couple of visits once mum and baby are home, typically 72 hours after the birth, to talk through the birth and check on general welfare of the mother. Helping women and their partner process the birth experience afterwards is an important aspect of a doula’s role.
How is the birth experience different with a doula?
For mum: mums often report a more positive experience and have fewer regrets. Talking to women after the birth of their first child, many say they wish they had known more or asked more questions (for example about the drugs offered to them or having the chance for skin on skin time with their newborn). A doula can also help fill in the blanks if memories of the birth are blurred.
For dad: having someone there who is trained and experienced gives dads confidence to get more involved at a level they feel comfortable. Although some dads may feel it could take away from their role as birth partner, having a doula there can actually allow them to fulfill it more calmly.
“I’ve always been fascinated by childbirth and what women endure throughout labour,” says Allie. “Maternity care differs so greatly within different cultures, and I feel that there is a big shift happening now, particularly in the Western world. How we treat labouring women is beginning to change – I want to be part of that change. For me it’s about enabling women to feel safe and secure. It’s about creating an empowering experience for the mother and a positive birth as she defines it.”
For one couple, Allie has already made a difference. New mum Lisa says, “Making the decision to have Allie accompany us during the birth of our first daughter was one of the best decisions Alex and I ever made. Allie provided great support throughout the whole process and her complete confidence in our ability was invaluable. She listened to my concerns, helped me navigate confusing and conflicting information, and helped support us when we were faced with difficult decisions when my labour didn’t go as planned. I think every woman, regardless of the type of birth, can benefit from having the support of a doula at her side. Thanks so much Allie, you made the whole process better!”
If you are interested in talking to Allie about the doula services she can offer, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 916-5118.