The role of a doula/birth companion
Birth is one of the most significant events in our life. – It is a powerful rite of passage for all and the beginning of the parenting journey for the mother and father.
Our experience of birth is now acknowledged to have a profound and long lasting impact on our physical, emotional and spiritual health. Research has shown the importance of emotional support during labour and birth to enhance our experience of birth as well as positively influence the birth outcome and support the bonding process. Nevertheless, the great technological advances in the obstetric field in the last century have mainly focused on the physical safety and pain relief of the labouring woman, leaving her, the baby and father often with very little emotional support.
In most traditional cultures, there would be a wise woman working alongside the midwife, holding and comforting the labouring woman. More recently birth companions/doulas have been fulfilling this role for the whole birthing family. Modern birth companions/Doulas are women especially trained to give emotional and practical support during the pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal period, leading to more satisfying and empowered experiences, and a decrease in interventions, caesarean sections and postnatal depression.
More and more women and couples are now choosing to have companion/doula support. Those who want to embrace all the different aspect of pregnancy and birth (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) may choose the support of a holistic birth companion/doula.
What does a doula do? (from doula.org.uk)
The services offered by a doula vary greatly according to the needs of the mother-to-be/parents-to-be. A doula’s role has to be flexible to fit in with the given situation e.g. the type of support will differ for a first time mum to that of a woman who has children already. Every birth is unique and therefore every woman’s experience is also unique.
Before childbirth the doula will usually meet with the mother (or couple) at least once face to face, and then perhaps be available by phone or for additional meetings if necessary.
During labour the doula is able to offer help and suggestions on comfort measures such as breathing, relaxation, movement and positioning. The doula can also encourage the father to participate in the birth to a level at which he feels comfortable. The doula’s most important role is to provide nurturing, continuous support and reassurance.
After childbirth the doula may follow up with a couple of postnatal visits to help the new mum settle at home with her new baby, or alternatively, the mother may decide to employ a postnatal doula for a period of 6 – 8 weeks.
Sometimes this will mean that the mother employs a different doula to the one that attended the birth as not all birth doulas can offer extended postnatal support, whereas there are doulas who ONLY offer this type of postnatal support.
The role of a childbirth educator
A childbirth educator offers classes to women or couples during the pregnancy and /or postnatal period. Those classes aim to teach women/couples a variety of tools to help them prepare for the Birth as well as provide a place to meet and form bonds with other women and couples.
The role of a pregnancy and postnatal circle facilitator:
A Mother’s circle facilitator facilitates women circles during pregnancy offering emotional support, information and a safe space for women to meet and share their experiences, the celebration as well as the dark moments of the journey of pregnancy.
Creativity, movement, bonding with baby, optimum nutrition, self-care, complementary therapies for well-being and dealing with changes and challenges, can all be part of the sessions, since sessions are often led by the women¡¦s needs and interests.
The postnatal groups offer vital support and information at a time where women are facing many changes in their life and can feel they lack the models and basic skills to fulfill their new role.