Research has shown that hiring a doula can cut the chances of medical interventions such as inductions, epidurals, instrumental births and caesareans by almost half. Women are less likely to request pain relief, tend to have shorter labours and have a more positive outlook of their birthing experience. So what are doulas and what do they do?
Doulas are women specially trained to offer continuous emotional, practical and informational support before, during and after childbirth to encourage the most satisfying and empowering experience for the mother and her family.
Your doula will visit you at least twice, usually in your home. This time will be spent getting to know one another and growing comfortable in each others company.
Every family is different and needs may vary from one to another, doulas can be very adaptable to those unique needs and will always support in a way that works best for you.
As well as doing visits your doula will be available throughout this transitional period via phone or email.
Your doula will be on-call for you 24hrs a day from weeks 38-42 of your pregnancy and available to join you in your labour as early as you feel the need.
The on-call period can usually be adjusted in special circumstances eg 42+ weeks, twins, early medical induction etc. Where this cannot be done a back-up doula will be put in place.
Your doula will support you over the phone, offering suggestions on comfort measures until you reach a point where you feel you'd like her to join you.
She will then remain with you throughout labour regardless of length until you are happily settled and feeding your baby.
A common concern is that a doula will somehow try to take dad's place or that he will be made to feel redundant, this is not the case- she is there to support you as a family.
Having already discussed what level of participation you would both feel comfortable with, your doula will provide peace of mind that should the father need to take a break, get something to eat or choose not to be there for whatever reason you will not be left alone unless that is your request.
Your doula will visit at least once more to check that you're all happily settled into your new roles at home.
They will also debrief your birth experience with you- perhaps filling you in on details you may have missed or forgotten.
They will listen to how you feel about both the birth and being new parents.
They can also support with feeding, bathing, dressing etc
A postnatal doula will try to make your transition into motherhood as easy as possible, whether that means stealing a cuddle so you can have a bath or making a quick bite to eat so you can get on with feeding the baby/ies.
She will do whatever it is she can to help you in your new role including light housework (tidying up, wiping surfaces, loading / unloading the dishwasher / washing machine) shopping, accompanying you to doctors appointments & mother and baby groups, supporting you with feeding or helping you bath, change and dress the baby.
Your doula is there to help you find your feet and it is important that she doesn't do so much that you become reliant on her. For this reason she will work with you up until 12 weeks after the birth of your child and visits will gradually get shorter and less frequent as time goes on.
Should you decide as you near the end of your contract that you wish to extend it further this can discussed although by this point we'd hope that you will be confident enough to continue on without her.