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What is a doula?

what is a doula

What is a doula?

The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotionaland informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the period after birth. A doula “mothers the mother”.

Compared with women who have no support in labor, women who have support from a companion who is neither a member of the hospital staff nor a friend or family member are:

  • 28% less likely to have a caesarean section

  • 31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin to speed labor

  • 9% less likely to use any pain medication

  • 34% less like to rate their childbirth experience negatively.

  • labours are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.

The doula is emerging as a positive contribution to the care of women in labor. By attending

to the woman’s emotional needs, some obstetric outcomes are improved. Just as importantly, the early mother-infant relationships and breastfeeding are enhanced.

Women’s satisfaction with their birth experiences and even their self-esteem appears to improve when a doula has assisted them through childbirth. Research evidence shows that the quality services of a postpartum doula can ease the transition that comes with the addition of a baby to a family, improve parental satisfaction and reduce the risk of mood disorders.

Doulas are NOT medical professionals (although some, such as myself, are medically qualified.)

I find being a nurse who does antenatal workshops and can follow through pregnancy, birth and beyond to vaccinations gives my patients that continuity of not having to learn someone new every time.

  • They do not perform clinical tasks such as vaginal exams or fetal heart monitoring

  • They do not give medical advice or diagnose conditions

  • They do not judge you for decisions that you make

  • They do not let their personal values or biases get in the way of caring for you (for example, they should not pressure you into making any decisions just because that’s what they prefer)

  • They do not take over the role of your husband or partner

  • They do not deliver the baby

  • They do not change shifts.

A Birth Doula

  • Recognizes birth as a key experience the mother will remember all her life

  • Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour

  • Assists the woman in preparing for and carrying out her plans for birth

  • Stays with the woman throughout the labour

  • Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures and an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the woman get the information she needs to make informed decisions

  • Facilitates communication between the labouring woman, her partner and her clinical care providers

  • Perceives her role as nurturing and protecting the woman's memory of the birth experience

  • Allows the woman's partner to participate at his/her comfort level

A Postpartum Doula

Offers education, companionship and nonjudgmental support during the postpartum fourth trimester. Offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary.

Most of the doulas that I am aware of in South Africa offer a service that encompasses the

antenatal period, the birth and the postpartum period. I include these all in my doula package but the number of antenatal and postnatal visits can be adjusted to suit the patients needs and financial restraints.

Below is some research that was done in the private sector in South Africa a few years ago.

It is the most recent research that we have in South Africa regarding Childbirth in the

private sector. No research has been published regarding the government sector as yet.

Please do your research and find out what your choices are regarding birth etc.

Childbirth Facts

  • Only 10% of pregnant mother’s/couples researched their options about birth

  • 67% had a caesarean section (the acceptable rate should be 18%)

  • 3,4% of births were accompanied by a doula

  • 19% were induced

  • 30% had liquid to drink during labour although most of those only sucked ice

  • 14% ate during labour although mostly just sucked sweets

  • Epidural is the preferred method for pain relief although midwives patients still opted for self-help techniques and pethidine

  • 33% had vaginal births

  • 28% delivered intact, 42% had a tear and 30% had an episiotomy. Research shows that hands should be off the perineum and let a mother deliver intact or with a tear

  • Most women birthed in a semi-reclined back-lying position and pushed as instructed by the caregiver and not pushed as their body told them to

  • 51% had skin-to-skin contact with their babies at birth

  • 44% breastfed their babies in the first hour

  • 68% had their babies rooming-in with them in the ward after birth

  • Birth is normal, natural and healthy

  • Women are made to birth

  • The experience of birth profoundly affects women and their families

  • Create good birthing experiences the memories are with you forever

  • Women’s inner wisdom guides them through birth

  • Women’s confidence and ability to give birth are either enhance or diminished by the care provider and place of birth so choose them carefully

  • Women have a right to give birth free from routine medical interventions

  • Birth can safely take place in birthing units and homes

  • Childbirth education empowers women to make informed choices in health care, to assume responsibility for their health and to trust their inner wisdom

Enjoy the privilege of giving birth

Author: Sharon Oates (B.Cur and Dip. Perinatal Education)

About: I am a registered nurse and midwife who loves babies. I developed my passion for babies and pregnancy after the birth of my first child. Years of experience in a baby clinic and having my own children who have had their own share of problems has given me that special edge with my patients. Website: Facebook:SharonOatesFamilyWellnessClinic


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