A doula is a professional childbirth assistant who provides emotional, physical, informational and practical support for the expectant, labouring and postnatal mother, but who does not have midwifery qualificaitons. Doula’s do not perform any medical or midwifery services and do not give medical or midwifery advice. Put simply, a doula is a support person who attends to the mother from the waist down, and a midwife works primarily with the woman and baby from the waist down.
The word doula and pronounced doo-la, is from the Greek language and translated means “woman servant”. Training and experience would vary between doula’s so you will need to have some questions ready to ask any potential doula that you may wish to employ. Ask for testimonials from other satisfied clients, and contact the past clients to confirm that they were satisfied with the doula’s experience and service. Most doula’s would be certified through some sort of training program, so be sure to ask.
A doula can support you no matter what type of birth you have or plan to have. You may have/want a vaginal birth, or a cesarean section – elective (planned) or emergency (unplanned).
A doula can help you to relax and feel confident and comfortable, provide a massage and assist you with labouring position changes. She can encourage you to take diet and fluids, remind you to put lip balm on to your dry lips or provide you with a wet cloth when you’re feeling hot. She can also act as an advocate (your voice when you don’t feel you can respond effectively).
You will need to check the hospital policy where you are booked to have your baby. Some hospitals only allow a couple of people and others don’t have a limit. It is a very private event though, so you probably don’t want more than a couple of people anyway. Usually children are not allowed, but check with your individual hospital.