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Why a doula is more than just a “nice to have”

Birth for Humankind’s Every Doula Count$ campaign It’s World Doula Week: a global movement raising awareness about the important role doulas can play in pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.

The word doula (derived from the Greek word meaning ‘servant of a woman’) is popping up more and more — particularly since news broke of Meghan Markle hiring a doula for the birth of her baby.

There’s now a growing awareness about the function of a doula: to provide practical and emotional support to birthing parents.

But not many people know why a doula’s support can make all the difference.

This World Doula Week, Birth for Humankind is on a mission to educate Australians about the benefits a doula can bring. Birth for Humankind engages volunteer doulas to provide free support to vulnerable pregnant women in Victoria.

In celebration of World Doula Week, we interviewed three of our volunteer doulas, Laura Lee Berlingieri, Julie Isaacson, and Maison Levot.

They talked about the role that doulas play within the maternal health system. When more and more hospitals and their staff are stretched for resources and time, doulas provide the one-on-one, mother-centred care that many birthing women lack.

As Laura Lee puts it, “there is so much busy-ness that takes place around birth — health professionals aren’t able to hold the space in the way that doulas can.

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 [1] and the World Health Organisation [2] have acknowledged the benefit of continuous support – so this situation is less than ideal for anyone.

According to Julie, a doula can give that continuity of care: “where you are focusing on the woman’s strength and enabling a transformative experience of birth, no matter the outcome.”

This focused care is one of the most powerful ways to improve birth and early parenting outcomes for women.

Research has shown that a doula being present during labour and birth can lead to a 50 per cent decrease in caesarean sections, a 25 per cent reduction in length of labour, a 60 per cent decrease in use of forceps and a 30 per cent decrease in use of pain medication (Klaus, Kennell and Klause 2002).

When we asked our volunteers, how does a doula work with women to help achieve these kinds of outcomes? This was their response: with empathy, unconditional positive regard, respect and acceptance.

Maison said, “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 one-on-one support to more than 300 women experiencing social and financial disadvantage.

The impact of this support can be life-changing.

Birth for Humankind client, Micaela* says, “I had been walking alone for so long in cold, dark tunnel frightened before my doulas started walking alongside with me. By the end of the tunnel where the light was, with my doula’s support, I could be ready to embrace my daughter as my companion in life.”

This World Doula Week, Birth for Humankind is running their Every Doula Count$ campaign, to raise awareness and funds so that they can continue to provide free birth support to women like Micaela.

Because the evidence is clear: doulas are more than just a nice to have. They can have a profoundly positive impact on women’s pregnancy, birth and early parenting experience, especially those experiencing social and financial disadvantage.

*names have been changed to protect privacy

——————————————————————

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

[1] Continuous support for women during childbirth

[2] Companion of choice during labour and childbirth for improved quality of care

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