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, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
What is a Doula?
A doula is a pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum expert. She knows the birth process fully. She is a kind, nonjudgmental, experienced professional who is there to answer all your questions about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and postpartum. She is there to support you during your labour and birth process, as well as assisting you with breastfeeding after the birth.
Your doula spends time with you during your pregnancy. She meets with you and your partner; she answers your whatsapps, calls, and emails when you have questions; and she loves getting to know you. When you have intimate or difficult questions about your experience, or when you need to know more about a choice you may need to make, your doula is there to provide you with calming reassurance, evidence-based information, and unbiased support.
She does not replace your birth partner, but is there to provide physical and emotional support to you both.
Your doula is the only professional who will be able to offer you continued care during your pregnancy, labour and postpartum. In a busy hospital, nurses, midwives, and doctors will be in and out, many you will have not met before. They will have responsibilities and routines. They will not be with you for your entire labour. Your doula, however, doesn't leave your side. She's the one who creates a calm, safe and comfortable environment so that you can bring your baby into the world with joy and peace.
Your doula is the calm presence in the birth room, even when birth is intense, fast-paced, or when things don't go as planned. She is there to provide continuous reassurance, information and support.
Most importantly, your doula has a passion for what she does. She wants you to experience the birth of your dreams, whatever that means for you. She provides the resources for you to be informed and empowered to make decisions, and then uses her training, expertise, and experience to support you no matter what. She is fully invested in you and your experience. The medical staff have many patients to attend to, but you will be your doula's first and only priority during your birth.
Before birth moved to the hospital, and people lived in communities, the pregnant mother was supported by the women around her, many of whom had given and witnessed birth before. Unfortunately now, we all live separately and birth is a big daunting, unknown experience for most women. Your doula is here to change that for you, she has given birth and witnessed births, she is here to re-create that community for you, to remove fear, so that you feel, ready, prepared and even excited about your birth.
Doulas are for hospital births, birth center births, home births, natural births, cesareans, epidural births, inductions, and everything in-between.
Benefits of a Doula
Worldwide studies done have shown that Doula's:
Decrease the length of your labour by 25%.
Lower the possibility of a caesarean by 50%.
Reduce your need for pain relief by 30%.
Reduce your need for an epidural by 60%.
Reduce the need for forceps delivery by 40%.
Decrease the need for synthetic oxytocin by 40%.
Because they have such a positive effect on the birth process, having a doula has also shown to:
Attachment and bonding between parents and baby
Positive feelings about giving birth
Mother and baby's well-being
as well as;
The perception of pain during labour
Incidence of postpartum depression
Need for medical intervention
Helen Digby is a certified WOMBS Doula (Women Offering Mothers Birthing Support) and is a registered birth doula service provider with Discovery Heath and Momentum Medical Scheme.
Beautiful photo credit: @modernstorytog
I offer Doula Support in and around Cape Town and the surrounds, including the Northern and Southern suburbs as well as the West Coast. My doula packages are customisable but generally include:
A complementary meet and greet/Q&A session to see if we are a good match.
Email, WhatsApp, and telephonic support during business hours from date of booking up until birth.
One (two, if necessary) 1-hour prenatal appointments between 30-36 weeks to get to know each other, discuss the prenatal questionnaire, discuss, and plan your birth wishes, and prepare for your labour, birth and immediate postpartum phase.
24-hour, on-call labour support from your 37th week of pregnancy until your birth.
In-person support for your labour and birth at your home and/or birthing facility. This includes early labour support, generally at your home, help staying comfortable, ideas for labour progress and help deciding when to go to hospital (if applicable). As well as continued support throughout the rest of advanced labour and birth, at home or in hospital, using massage, help with breathing and relaxation, position suggestions, environment set up, music, reassurance, encouragement, practical support for partner and taking photographs if/ when possible.
In-person support for up to 2-hours after your birth, to get you settled in at home/postnatal ward and to assist with skin-to-skin and your baby’s first feed.
Two postnatal visits:
A, 1-hour, postnatal visit on day three or four after birth, to assist with any early feeding issues and settling in at home.
A, 1-hour postnatal visit one week later (+/- day ten after birth) to see how you are settling into life with your new baby, discuss your birth, and assist with any adjustment/recovery issues or appropriate referrals.
Email, WhatsApp, and telephonic support for questions and concerns for up to four weeks after your birth.