What is a labour doula?
What Does a Doula Do?
The following is a general description of what you might expect from a CAPPA Canada certified labour doula. Typically, doulas meet with the mom and her spouse/support person/partner in the second or third trimester of pregnancy to get acquainted, to learn about prior birth experiences and the history of this pregnancy. She may help you develop a birth plan, teach relaxation, comfort measures, position changes, visualization and breathing skills useful during labour. Most importantly, the doula will provide comfort, support, and information about birth options, including the risks, benefits and alternatives of medical interventions.
A doula can help the woman to determine prelabor from true labour and early labour from active labour. At a point determined by the woman in labour, the doula will come to her and assist her by:
Helping her to rest and relax
Providing support for the woman's spouse/support person/partner
Encouraging nutrition and fluids in early labour.
Assisting her in using a variety of helpful positions and comfort measures.
Constantly focus on the comfort of both the woman and her partner.
Helping the environment to be one in which the woman feels secure and confident.
Providing her with information on birth options.
A doula works cooperatively with the healthcare team. In the event of a complication, a doula can be a great help in understanding what is happening and what options the family may have. The doula may also help with initial breastfeeding and in preserving the privacy of the new family during the first 1-2 hour(s) after birth.
Are you Doula Material?
Not everyone is “doula material”. Many women love birth and have the knowledge required, but are still unable to be a good doula. Some people believe that to be a good doula you must have given birth yourself. There are many childless doulas with wonderful skills and very kind and caring hearts. Sometimes they find doula work easier than others as they have fewer commitments than women with children.
What, then, makes a good doula? One of the most important qualities of a good doula is the ability to put aside her own feelings about what is a "good birth" and support the mother and her partner in their decisions. This is not always easy, especially when we see women making choices that we know will lead to a highly interventive birth. It is essential that doulas do not push their own feelings on expectant parents.
Another important quality is a caring and compassionate heart. It is also important that the doula have physical strength, good listening skills, a calm demeanor, and a good knowledge of childbirth. A person who has too many personal problems does not make a good doula. It is important when supporting a woman during labour and birth that the doula is not distracted by her own problems. A good doula must be able to tolerate long periods with no sleep, she must be able to live an on-call lifestyle, and if she has children, she will need on-call childcare. She must also be able to handle conflict with a level head and a professional demeanor.
Birth is fascinating and the concept of having a job that puts one around it on a regular basis is intriguing to many. Unfortunately, there is a price that comes with living the life of a doula, and a good doula must be willing to “count the cost” to her lifestyle, emotions, and family.
Studies have shown that women supported by a doula during labour have:
50% reduction in the cesarean rate
25% shorter labour
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in oxytocin use
30% reduction in analgesia use
40% reduction in forceps delivery