When a woman gives birth she is usually surrounded by quite a few people – all with their varying but important roles to play.
Usually by her side is her partner, offering love, care and encouragement, eagerly awaiting the emotional arrival of a new baby. The midwife is there to monitor, support and guide her through the stages of labour and birth. An obstetrician will be on hand should medical intervention be required or a complication occur.
So where does a doula fit into all of this? What is the role of a doula? And should you hire a doula for your labour and birth?
What is a doula?
A doula is a birth attendant whose focus is to give continuous support — emotional and physical — to the mother and partner during birth and the postnatal period.
Doulas are trained and experienced at childbirth but they do not offer medical support – that is the role of the midwife or doctor. They are there as your support and as your advocate. A doula is there for you and her aim is to make your birth and labour as comfortable and as satisfying as possible.
A doula may also help you to prepare for the birth and determine your birth choices.
The word ‘doula’ comes from the Greek word for female servant.
What does a doula do?
There are a number of ways that a doula supports a mother in pregnancy, during labour and in the postnatal period. Here are just a few:
- help you to prepare for labour and birth
- educate and inform
- help you write a birth plan and work out your birth preferences
- talk through any concerns you have
- offer continuous support during labour and birth
- make suggestions on how to be more comfortable during labour
- help with breathing techniques, positioning and moving around
- adapt to what the mother is feeling
- ensure the birthing environment is relaxing and calm
- use massage or touch to reduce anxiety in the mother
- supports the mother’s partner
- allows the partner to take an active role or a comforting role, whichever they’re comfortable with
- gives the partner a break when they need it
- supports and assists the mother if a caesarean is needed, allowing the partner to attend to the baby’s needs.
- offers postnatal care and assistance
How to hire a doula?
When looking to hire a birth doula you’ll need to find someone you connect with and feel comfortable with. Also doulas offer various services so you’ll need to ask some questions about what they offer and what you can expect. It is a good idea to meet them in person to get a good idea of how well you’ll work together. Here are some questions you should ask when interviewing a potential doula.
- what services do you provide?
- are you available on and around my due date?
- what happens if for some reason you become unavailable? Is there a back-up plan?
- how much does it cost? Was does this cost include?
- what is your experience as a birth attendant?
- why did you decide to be a doula?
- have you attended many births in my chosen hospital/birth centre?
- what are your preferred methods of pain relief?
- how will you support my partner?
How much does a doula cost?
The cost of a doula is not covered by Medicare or other medical benefits. There is no standard rate and the services also vary from doula to doula. This means that cost can range anywhere from $500 to $3000+.
If you’re keen to employ a doula but can’t afford to pay very much you could look into hiring a student doula — they will not have the same level of experience as a doula who has been working for many years, but they can still offer support and care. They can only gain more experience and training if people give them to opportunity to do so.