“Have you heard that Meghan Markle is getting a doula?”, I keep getting asked. Well, she’s not the only one.
I’m lucky to regularly hear first-hand of the value of the practical, personal and emotional support provided by doulas throughout pregnancy, birth and early parenting. It’s not just celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Alicia Keys and Alanis Morrisette who are benefitting — birthing parents across Australia are turning to the support of private doulas to help them navigate the complex world of birth planning, maternal health choices.
While doula means ‘servant to woman’ in Greek, I’m certain that in coming years the word ‘doula’ won’t be such a foreign term to us.
Why? Because whoever the new parent is — you, me, or Meghan Markle — when it comes to ensuring respectful, positive birthing experiences, every doula counts.
The confidence-building power of the quiet advocate, giving information to empower decision making. The squeeze of a hand, a gentle massage from a familiar touch that creates more positive birthing experiences. It sounds nice doesn’t it?
But a doula is so much more than a ‘nice to have’.
Research has shown that a doula being present during labour and birth can lead to a 50% decrease in caesarean sections, a 25% reduction in length of labour, a 60% decrease in use of forceps and a 30% decrease in use of pain medication (Klaus, Kennell and Klaus, 2002).
If this is the difference it can make to A-list celebrities and even royalty, just imagine the transformative difference a doula can make to someone who would otherwise be facing this time alone or in crisis.
In a public health system experiencing increasing strain, it’s common for birthing parents to never see the same health professional through pregnancy and birth. Many leading academics  and the World Health Organisation  have acknowledged the benefit of continuous support – so this situation is less than ideal for anyone.
But imagine for a moment what this means if you are socially isolated, with no other support person.
No consistent person to discuss your experiences with. No one to help gather and process information. No one to help you assess your rights, if you don’t know them.
If you’ve experienced abuse, violence or trauma, pregnancy can be a difficult time with invasive examinations and procedures that can invoke painful, retraumatising memories.
For those who have recently arrived in Australia it can be difficult to know what services are available, if you don’t have someone to help you connect to them. If you speak limited English, hospital lingo can be impenetrable – and especially frightening in times of crisis.
As many people experiencing depression or anxiety may tell you, having to re-tell your story and your struggle to every new counsellor or health professional, can stop them getting the help they need.
A doula can help overcome these obstacles.
As Birth for Humankind volunteer doula, Maison, so beautifully puts it: “A doula offers acceptance of that person’s life path, their culture, their decisions, the way they want go through their pregnancy, the way they want to birth, the way they want to raise their baby.”
Birth for Humankind has provided this kind of care to more than 300 women experiencing social and financial disadvantage.
But many more birthing parents across Victoria are facing pregnancy and child birth alone. They are not getting the support they need from our health care system and they can’t afford the private doula fees.
That’s why this World Doula Week we’re asking for your help to reach more vulnerable birthing parents than ever before.
Because every doula counts. To every client.
The Bub Hub is proud to support Birth For Humankind
Birth For Humankind mobilises and supervises a team of volunteer doulas who give of their time to provide free one-to-one continuous care through the perinatal period for women facing socio-economic disadvantage.
To support Birth for Humankind’s Every Doula Count$ campaign, visit www.birthforhumankind.org