What is a Doula?
A doula has had at least one baby herself, and now supports other women before, during or after the birth, or all three.
A doula birth is often a relaxed and confident process for a new mum.
What does an antenatal Doula do?
An antenatal Doula is a companion through labour and birth. She will:
- Spend time with you (and your partner if that’s appropriate) exploring your birth plan and your wishes, needs and expectations.
- Help you understand what’s possible, to have a clear vision of how you’d like to give birth and to support you in recognising your hopes and fears, beliefs and desires around this significant process
- Allow you to become confident, relaxed and adaptable throughout the antenatal period.
During labour your Doula can:
- Support you and your partner so that you can experience the process of birth without being distracted by practical concerns
- Provide therapeutic assistance such as back massage, aromatherapy etc to assist during labour
- Make suggestions, based on experience, that can help you feel more comfortable physically, mentally and emotionally, through your labour
- Maintain an environment that is birth focused and birth friendly
- Remind you of your birth plan and help you adjust it, if necessary, to meet your birth circumstances
- Remain with you after the birth until you are comfortable and settled
- Help you start the breastfeeding bond, if that is what you choose
- Leave as soon as you are ready for privacy and/or rest.
Your birth Doula will not:
- Replace your partner (unless you wish it) but will support you both as a couple experiencing childbirth
- Interfere with the work of the midwife or doctor
- Offer medical advice - a trained Doula is experienced, but she is not a medical professional and is only present to help you understand your choices and make wise birth decisions.
What are postnatal Doula services?
A postnatal Doula will:
- Assist with the process of bringing your baby home
- Undertake some practical responsibilities such as shopping for your newborn, helping organise the baby’s nursery area and checking the rest of the house is ‘baby ready’
- Ensure you get the rest and ease you need after your labour
- Help keep your household running smoothly, including helping older children make the adjustment to the new arrival
- Be flexible so that her input changes as the needs of the family change
- Share information about baby care with you and your partner and help the wider family welcome and celebrate the new arrival
- Recognise when a new parent is becoming anxious or overwhelmed and help them relax
- Make sure that both mother and baby are well fed, comfortable and relaxed.
How to choose a Doula
There is nothing like spending time with a potential Doula to work out if she is the one for you. Doula care varies from person to person, however, here a few things to consider that may help you narrow down the field to several Doulas to interview:
Is she a professional Doula?
If she has qualifications from a recognised Doula Association, and practical experience of Doula work, she’s professional. Is she insured and DBS checked?Certainty about this will give you confidence in her support through birth and after.
Is she a dedicated Doula?
Dedicated Doulas continue to train and learn, they demonstrate that they are always looking to deepen their understanding so they can help families better. Look out for recent Doula training, new qualifications, mentoring and being mentored - these are signs that a Doula is committed to her profession. A dedicated Doula ensures her clients are in the best possible place at each stage of the process.
Do I like my Doula?
In the end, this woman will be spending some of the most significant time of your life with you - so you’d better get on with her! If you don’t feel a rapport, then no matter how great her qualifications and experience, you won’t naturally turn to her in a moment of need. It’s a privilege to help a mother and your Doula should be somebody you feel relaxed with and confident about. The simple question here is, ‘would I like her if I met her in other circumstances?’ If the answer is yes, she’ll probably be a great Doula for you.