The Purpose and Value of a Doula

Besides offering education and informational support to a couple a doula also offers physical support during labour. Physical support can consist of gentle touch, specific massage techniques or pressure points, manual support to the pelvis, lower back legs and shoulders, rhythmic use of water, physical rocking, swaying plus many more that arise in the moment. Labour support is not only helpful for the birthing mother but also for the husband, friend or other family members that may be involved in the birth. It can allow other helpers to rest, eat and re-charge so they can be more present for the birthing mother. A doula can also teach others effective tools they can use to help support the labouring mother. Physical postures for changing positions, manual pressure and massage techniques and visualizations are just some of the tools a doula uses either directly with the birthing mother or passes on to another helper. Because a doula knows the anatomy or the body, the possible positions of the descending baby and the stages of labour intimately she is able to effectively guide the birthing mother with options that can make the labour more comfortable and the contractions more effective so that the labour progresses positively.

Photo credit: Julia Cedar

Emotional support may be one of the most valuable aspects of care that are offered to the labouring mothering and new parents. Because the doula is knowledgeable in the birthing process and not charged emotionally with the situation as a parent would be she is in the perfect position to focus solely on the mother and watching and listening to what is going on. From this place of observation she is able to assess the needs of the mother and partner and offer caring words, reassurance, gentle guidance, assistance with breathing, vocal toning and a reflection of the courage and strength that is being displayed.

With the increased possibility of less medical interventions babies born to couples with labour support are often more alert and awake. This makes immediate breastfeeding easier and more effective. Babies are more likely to have a stronger sucking reflex, stay awake long enough to learn how to latch properly and draw out the nutrient dense colostrom. The role of the doula continues after birth so that she can help the new mother and baby navigate the unknown waters of breastfeeding, changing, bathing, self care for the healing mother and bonding for the whole family. The doula can provide valuable support regarding resources in the community, and educated the new parents on some of the common and not so common issues that may arise after birth such as postpartum depression. After the birth the doula visits the couple several times to help with the transition into their new life, and often to process the birth experience together.