Throughout the ages, women have gathered to help each other through the life-altering experience of birth. Millenniums ago two roles developed that have stood the test of time for being essential and empowering to the labor and birth experience. And they are: The Midwife. And the lesser known, Doula.
Since I’ve moved back on the island, I’ve been asked, “What is a Doula?” so many times that I feel compelled to share what a Doula is and why I believe every woman deserves to have one at her birth. The word ‘Doula’ is a Greek word that literally means “woman’s servant”. In Greek history, there were women servants whose sole responsibility was to support their mistress through labor, childbirth and help her all the way through her recovery and as she began breastfeeding.
This sacred contract/role continues today, with a modern twist, but is unfortunately not well known in our modern culture. A modern Doula is a hired helper who specializes in labor and childbirth assistance. A knowledgeable and experienced Doula provides services before, during and after labor, providing information and support throughout the birth process. One such benefit of hiring a Doula is physical support to ease the labor experience.
Another service is the emotional support she provides by making herself available for the intensity of emotions that come up in the mama, and helping to soothe and assist release. She also helps decrease the stress level of the fathers and other members of the birth team, which can be extremely useful. You may already know. While lots of family members are more than happy to be at the birth and provide encouragement and support, they can end up being flabbergasted as to what they can do or say. They often are surprised by the discovery of their own intense emotions. So, on behalf of the birthing mama, the Doula shows them techniques, providing them with tools and information to help. It is incredibly reassuring and physically relieving to have an experienced woman at your birth, who is there solely for you.
Your Doula is also there for any postnatal help you may require either with the healing process or knowledge with newborns, or both. The statistics to having such a person present are impressive. Mamas with Doulas tend to have fewer birth complications, fewer requests for pain relief, fewer cesareans, increased breastfeeding success, and report having a higher satisfaction level with their birth experience than those who do not have a Doula. Doulas are an amazing part of the birth experience and every woman deserves to have one supporting her. She caters her skills to your needs and requests and is well worth the investment.
Image Credit: Erin Dieguez