Doula is a Greek word referring to an experienced woman who helps other women. The word has now come to mean a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth.
Traditionally, the role of a doula would have been filled by the birthing woman’s mother, grandmother, sister, aunt etc. But in this modern age where we often live far away from our immediate family, this role has been lost. Women will often rely on the father of the child or partner, who have little or no experience of birth, for this support. In asking fathers / partners to be the main support, our society may have created a very difficult expectation for them to meet. (it’s a bit like asking a the father to play in a professional football game after several lectures but without any training or practice games!)
The doula role is designed to provide a nurturing, helpful, and objective female supporter so that the family member chosen to be present does not have sole responsibility for the labour. A doula is there to provide support not only to the birthing woman but also to support the father / partner, freeing them up to give the mother the loving care and attention that both she and the baby need. The doula is there to encourage the father / partners to fully participate, not to usurp or interfere.
A doula provides continuity of care. Unless you hire an independent midwife for your birth, the chances are you will receive the care of many different midwives, and could find yourself labouring for long periods of time without support. This can be very unsettling for the labouring woman and as a consequence she could have a longer labour, need pain relieving drugs or other medical interventions.
'Ruth was my perfect doula for the home birth of my twins, she was there when you needed her smiling and loving and also quietly unobtrusive when you just wanted a quiet time with your new ones. She cooks the most wonderfull wholesome meals, entertained and cared for my other kids, ran glorious baths filled with petals, sang songs, soothed my worries, dotted on my little ones in a very respectful sacred manner. She gave me space and created a most warmly, homely, gloriously light space too, with ease and a smile. Amazing womyn, so glad to have her as my doula and friend, even my mama, if that was possible. I loved having her around, she knew just what to do, was efficient and grounded and helped me heaps. I love her for that and more'
Dee, Mother of 4.
The explanation for this is really quite simple. If a woman is calm, relaxed, and well supported during her birth, her body will release its own natural pain killers in the form of endorphins and oxytocin (the love hormone), allowing her body to do the job it was designed to do, and birth the baby. However, when a woman is interrupted (excessive monitoring, different people coming and going in the birthing room) or if she and/or her partner is fearful / anxious, her body then releases adrenaline, which will take blood away from where it is needed in the uterus, and send in to the arms and legs (fight or flight mode), making the contractions more painful and slowing down the labour.
A doula will be with you from the moment you call her to when the baby has been born and will stay to help with breastfeeding, care of the placenta and if you are planning a home birth, will also help clear up afterwards!
A doula is a reassuring and constant presence for both the mother and her partner.
You can contact Ruth via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or telephone: 07866 806058
'Ruth was solid in her support for me throughout my pregnancy and birth. She always respected my choices and clearly advocated on my behalf once we arrived at the hospital. With Ruth's warmth, focus and dedication to her work, I always felt totally safe in her care : better than any pain relief! The benefit of her continuity, for me and my little girl is beyond measure'
Sue, Mother of Rae.