There is often quite a bit of confusion between the care of a doula and the care of a midwife. The doula profession is not the same as midwifery and the responsibilities, services and care between the two are very different.
Doulas are support members who may be further trained in additional natural/holistic therapies that offer alternative options from standard allopathic healthcare for relief and comfort during labour (such as hypnobirthing, rebozo technique, acupressure, meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, herbalism, reiki, massage, sound therapy, etc.)
A doula supports and “coaches” a woman through labouring comfortably, effectively and safely while assisting the birth partner by encouraging their active participation and relieving them of mundane duties (cleaning, organizing music, setting the environment, fetching food/drink, running a bath, etc.), and providing information.
Doulas may also care for and facilitate young siblings attending the birth so that the birth partner can be more involved in the birth process with less distraction. A doula serves the labouring mother to help meet her personal, emotional, mental and physiological needs. As a whole, a doula guides and facilitates the birth process and birth environment to assist the couple in having a calm, relaxed and empowered birth experience with minimal stress, distraction and discomfort.
Doulas are not medically trained and do not deliver babies or conduct any form of medical duties like a midwife, GP or gynea. However, unlike medical care providers, a doula’s support is more ‘personal’ (focusing also on emotional, mental, intimate, and sometimes even spiritual support). Doulas work alongside a woman’s care provider as part of the birth team unit but they work exclusively for the birthing mother according to her needs, preferences and expectations.
Doulas generally have personal experience in childbirth (vaginal or cesarean) and are further trained in the knowledge of the physiological, emotional ( and in some cases, spiritual) aspects of pregnancy, labour, birth, and postpartum. Some doulas may be further trained in bereavement and trauma situations to emotionally support and facilitate a mother and/or couple through high risk births, emergencies or traumatic birth outcomes (such as still born births, etc.)
Doulas cost a lot less than care providers and often walk a more personal/intimate road with a mother/couple prenatally (regardless of her risk factor), during labour and birth (regardless of the type of birth), and postnatally.
“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” – Dr. John Kennell
What Does A Doula Do?
A doula provides information and guidance on medical procedures; labour & birth options; alternative solutions; stages of labour; and answering any questions the labouring woman, birth partner or family may have.
A doula provides physical support by assisting with position changes; running general errands during the birth process; creating comfort measures; helping with massage & breathing; and assisting with pain relief options.
A doula provides emotional and mental support by creating an atmosphere of privacy and calmness; motivating and encouraging; reassuring and affirming; holding space; actively listening, and allowing the labouring woman to be exactly who and how she needs to be.
A doula utilizes specialised techniques for labour such as rebozo; massage; acupressure; aromatherapy; hynobirthing; and meditation, etc. Each doula has experience in different skills.
A doula acts as a facilitator by working with the woman’s birth partner during labour and birth; promoting an effective labour, early bonding, skin to skin and breastfeeding; highlighting any possible changes to the birth plan; and accommodating any family members.
But most of all, the main role of a doula is to make a positive impact to the birth experience of each family she serves.
A doula makes a positive difference; that’s what a doula does.
What About Birth Partners?
A doula does not replace the woman’s birthing partner. In fact, a doula understands the importance of the woman’s partner because she knows that no one else knows the woman better. While a doula may have a deeper knowledge of labour and birth, the partner understands the woman in a deeper, more intimate way; a way that the doula does not.
A doula assists the birth partner to be more actively involved and encourages them to have a more hands on approach to the birth process. In areas where the birth partner may not know how to effectively care for or assist the labouring woman, the doula provides them with options and guidelines for effective labour support.
In some cases, a doula who is experienced in specific specialised therapeutic techniques for labour can teach/show some of these techniques to the birth partner, enabling a more active participation. A doula works with the birth partner, and together they make up the ideal support team to help the mother (and birth partner) have a more relaxed, positive, empowered and memorable birthing experience.
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