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  • Writer's pictureNutured Birth Ottawa

Doula Q & A

An Introduction to Doula Support

1. What is a birth doula? What kind of services do they offer?

The word doula comes from the Greek word meaning “woman’s servant.” The modern-day doula is someone who provides emotional and physical support to a woman and her family during the childbearing year including labour and postpartum.

A doula’s services include 2-3 prenatal appointments during which a relationship of trust and understanding is formed. During these consultations, the mother, or birthing person, and partner are encouraged to ask questions about pregnancy, express their fears and or concerns about the labour, and make decisions about the type of birth they would like to experience. The doula provides unbiased information regarding the risks and benefits of the procedures, interventions and possible complications during pregnancy, labour and delivery.

Doula’s are on call a few weeks before the due date, meaning that they become available for support 24 hours a day. Once the mother starts experiencing positive signs of labour, her doula will meet with the birth person and birth partner at their home or chosen birthplace. During the labour the doula may provide massage, counter pressure, aromatherapy, and homeopathy, suggest breathing exercises, recommend labour positions, and provide emotional support and encouragement. Doulas also facilitate communication between the labouring couple and the birthing staff to ensure that they have all the information needed to make confident and informed decisions about their birth. Above all, the doula is present to help the labouring woman and birth partner feel empowered by their birth experience.

The doula also visits the family in the week following the delivery to provide post-partum support including breast feeding support, baby care tips, and referrals to community services.

2. What are the benefits of hiring a doula?

One of the most famous quotes about doulas comes from Doctor John H. Kennell. He said that “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” He knew, just as many birth experts are coming to understand, that the support provided by birth doulas result in improved outcomes for both mother and baby. Having a doula present during birth has been shown to significantly decrease the rates of C-section, shorten the length of labour, decrease the risk of the newborn baby being admitted to special care and decrease the risk of being unhappy with the birth experience!!

3. What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?

Midwives provide the clinical and medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. Doulas shine when it comes to non-clinical support. We connect. We educate. We nourish. We encourage. We guide. We hold space. We love.

4. Are doulas covered by medical care?

Unfortunately, at this point, doula services are not covered by provincial health care plans. However, a few private insurance plans are starting to offer coverage. Most clients pay for doula services out of pocket. Many doulas offer payment plans or sliding scale services to ensure that that their services are accessible to those at all income levels. It is important that we value and support doulas to do what they love most, make a positive impact upon our birth culture and support women to become powerful labouring women and empowered mothers.

5. What inspired you to become a doula?

I was born into a birth centered home. My mother was a practicing midwife and, as a result, I spent my childhood regularly witnessing the beauty and power of natural childbirth. When I became pregnant with my first child I was fascinated by my pregnancy and upcoming birth. I was fortunate enough to have a natural birth with my mother as my doula. She even caught my baby! I felt incredibly empowered and enlightened by my birth experience. When I started talking to other women and asking about their birth experiences, I was surprised at just how much birth trauma exists in our society. From that moment on I knew that I wanted to become a birth worker.

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