Although more and more women are aware of doulas, and the awesome benefits doula support can provide, I still at times am met with a look of ‘say what now?’ when I tell people I am a doula.
I thought I’d do a short post to outline as best as I can, what it is I actually do in this role.
I am a double certified birth, postpartum, and bereavement doula. I’m based in Macksville, but primarily offer my services from here to Coffs Harbour and surrounds, and of course my online services can be accessed from anywhere!
But what does that mean?
‘Doula’ is a greek word, and is thought to mean ‘womans servant’ or to ‘mother the mother’.
A doula is a trained professional who provides practical, emotional, and informational support to mothers and families throughout pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. She doesn’t perform any medical tasks nor make any diagnosis.
Some doulas focus on one aspect, some offer a combination. As I mentioned, I offer birth, postpartum and bereavement services, both in person and online.
As a birth doula, I offer packages where I provide support to families throughout pregnancy, and usually in-person support through the birth as well.
I do this by getting to know my clients, and what their wishes are for their birthing experience. It’s my role to support them in their choices, whatever they may be. Natural birth, homebirth, drugs or even a planned c-sec, whatever they feel is the best choice for them, is what I will support them in.
Throughout the pregnancy we’ll work on birth education and birth preparation, including formulating a birth plan, or ‘birth preferences’ as I call it. We might debrief any previous trauma or birth experiences , work on optimal foetal positioning, and practice comfort and relaxation techniques for use during the later stages of pregnancy and through the labour.
If I’m supporting Mama through labour, it becomes my role to help facilitate the birth experience she is working for. I do this by keeping the environment as calm and relaxing as possible, so you can lose yourself in that special headspace you need to go into, and by ensuring your wishes are respected by all who are in attendance. I also offer practical support with massage and positioning suggestions and so forth, and can offer suggestions to your partner if they’re feeling overwhelmed and are unsure how best to support you.
I usually stay for a couple of hours after baby is born, to help you get settled and establish breastfeeding.
Studies have shown that having a doula in attendance at your birth can reduce the risk of needing a c-sec by up to 50%, reduce the need for forceps or vacuum delivery, mean less requests for epidurals or narcotic pain relief, reduce the use of synthetic oxytocin for augmentation or induction, reduce the length of labour by around 25%, reduce the likelihood of suffering postpartum depression and may even increase the rate of successful breastfeeding.
I have been blessed to support many families through their birthing experiences, and I have come to realise that women are often needing even more intensive support once baby is born.
This is why I decided to start offering postpartum packages separately.
So what is a Postpartum, (or postnatal), Doula?
Essentially, she’s your fairy godmother. Like your mother or MIL without the emotional baggage 😉
In the past, family and community would come together to support new mothers. But nowadays we live in nuclear families, and culturally don’t have much understanding of women’s needs after childbirth. Sadly many new mothers end up feeling isolated, overwhelmed and exhausted.
We’re seeing higher occurrences of postnatal depression today than we ever have, and I believe this has a lot to do with a lack of support, and unrealistic expectations we as mothers place on ourselves.
So many women feel like they should automatically know how to take care of baby, or breastfeed easily, because that’s just what happens when you become a mother right? And in today’s society, it’s not uncommon for a woman to have her own baby, without ever having held a baby in her life, so she feels completely at a loss as to what to do with this tiny little perfect being. Even women who have had children already sometimes find themselves with a baby who just didn’t read the manual and find themselves struggling.
Traditionally, we had much more help, in the form of our mothers and aunts and sisters. But now families are more isolated, and often our own mothers are still working and unable to help us just as much as we might need.
Postpartum doulas are non-medical professionals designed to fill this gap with emotional and physical support during this life-changing transition to motherhood. Postpartum doulas have a sound understanding of the unique physical and emotional needs new mothers have, and can help women step into their roles as mothers with confidence and satisfaction.
My role as a postpartum doula is to support new parents to bond with their babies, and to gain a deeper understanding of their baby’s personality and temperament, and to help them to develop confidence in their own unique parenting style.
My support will vary depending on each families needs, but primarily includes a mixture of practical hands on support around the home, and emotional and informational support. I will also refer you to external resources if I feel they may be beneficial to you.
Some sessions will see me offering support and guidance with feeding, or practicing settling techniques, or simply taking care of baby so you can shower or eat a hot meal or even sleep.
Other times I may be a shoulder to cry on while you pour your heart out or vent any frustrations or concerns you might have, or simply share a laugh together over a cup of tea.
We might also go over baby massage techniques, or learn how to read baby’s cues and cries, discuss ways to help older siblings adjust to the new arrival, or how you can maintain a healthy relationship with your partner.
I can also help with light housework duties or meal preparation, enabling you to focus on getting to know your baby, or to get some rest while baby sleeps.
I also try to help you build a network, so you are supported after my services have ended.
I can also offer online postpartum sessions to new Mums. Obviously this won’t include practical support, but it is a great way to be able to receive professional, consistent information and guidance on a range of issues such as baby sleep patterns, settling techniques, breastfeeding, or emotional support in general. This is a new service I am offering, however all the women I’ve connected with online have found this support to be very useful and have appreciated the fact they can reach this support from the comfort of their own home.
You can find more information about any of my services,under the ‘services’ section of the menu, or by following my page on facebook.