A birth doula’s purpose is to help mothers come as close as they can to having the kind of birth they desire, leaving them and their birth partner with the best possible feelings about themselves and their capabilities. They work to educate mothers and their partners about childbirth, to help mediate the stress and discomfort that can be associated with pregnancy and labour, and to provide physical and emotional support throughout the entire childbirth process. The doula offers suggestions on comfort measures, pain relief, positions, movement, breathing and relaxation. They provide constant, nurturing, helpful and objective support as well as first-hand knowledge and understanding of what you, the labouring mother, is going through.

A doula sees the mother as the centre of the birthing experience, with her chosen birthing team there to support and guide her. She is there for the woman and her partner as they prepare to welcome their baby into the world; providing one-on- one care in pregnancy, throughout the entirety of labour (no matter how long), and into early parenting. A doulas aim is to respect this vision of birth as well as the birth plan set out by the mother and her

partner. Studies have shown that women who choose to have a doula present during labour:

•   tend to have shorter labours with fewer complications and interventions;

•   request pain medication less often;

•   have lower incidence of operative deliveries including caesareans;

•   and have more positive opinions of their birthing experiences and greater success

in breastfeeding.

Doulas play a different role from a woman’s partner because they bring with them a wisdom that comes from experience. They have seen and witnessed the normal process of birth and therefore when things get intense in labour, they are there to reassure the mother and partner that things are progressing normally. Also, partners are often more emotionally involved in the birth, and at times it can be hard for them to see their partner in pain, but doulas offer a connected yet more objective presence. You’ll often find the doulas clapping when a woman throws up in labour, and smiling when she says “I Can’t”, because we know she can, and because we know enough to understand that these are signs of great progress! Partners and Doulas give a labouring woman the best of both worlds – the comfort and love of her partner and the skills, knowledge and experience of a doula.

While the outcome of birth can be unpredictable, the care you receive during your labour never should be. A doula is YOUR assistant. They do not work for the hospital or nurses. They’re employed by you, and therefore have your desires, hopes, and best interest in mind.

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