The word, “doula,” comes from the Greek word for the most important female slave or servant in an ancient Greek household; the woman who probably helped the lady of the house through her childbearing. The word has come to refer to “a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during and just after childbirth.” (Klaus, Kennell and Klaus, Mothering the Mother)
- Recognizes birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all her life
- Understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labour
- Assists the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plans for the birth
- Stays by the side of the labouring woman throughout the entire labour
- Provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint and assistance to the woman in getting the information she needs to make good decisions
- Facilitates communication between the labouring woman, her partner and clinical care providers
- Perceives her role as one who nurtures and protects the woman’s memory of her birth experience.
The acceptance of doulas in maternity care is growing rapidly with the recognition of their important contribution to the improved physical outcomes and emotional well-being of mothers and infants.
Why is there a need for Doulas?
As childbirth has moved from home to hospital, a vital element of care has been lost from the whole process. Gone are the days where a woman would have continuous support from one carer throughout her labour unless she has an Independent Midwife.
It used to be the case that the womenfolk within the immediate and extended family (mothers/sisters/grandmother etc.) would be on hand to provide the nurturing role for the new mother, to guide by experience and help with the practicalities that need to be performed before, during and after a woman gives birth to a baby.