There’s a reason why doulas are in demand around the world. In fact, in countries such as the US, the doula movement is fast becoming a multi-million-dollar business. The main reason for this is that “Women want to feel more empowered throughout their pregnancy and during birth – and they’re looking for emotional support along their parenting journey,” says Johannesburg-based doula, Magdaleen Moller.
Also, with the pressures of modern society, more women are working longer hours and having to raise their kids alone. This decline of the collective “village” where women volunteer to help each other raise their children, has lead to the increased demand for paid help. This is especially true in the first few weeks after birth, where new moms tend to feel a little lost and alone and need quick answers to a host of questions about their new bundle of joy, she adds.
What is a doula?
Doulas, also known as birth companions and postpartum supporters, have been around for centuries and assist mothers in labour, explains Magdaleen. The modern doula offers services that range from prenatal education to physical and emotional care during birth, and postpartum support for both parents. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most doula-client relationships begin in the second or third trimester of pregnancy where a mother feels free to ask questions and raise concerns about childbirth. Doulas are also there to assist with the parent’s birth plan.
What is the difference between a doula and a midwife?
Although doulas and midwives both play a supporting role before, during and after childbirth, the essential difference is that a doula coaches parents through childbirth, while a midwife is seen as a healthcare provider. Midwives can deliver babies – at home or in hospital, whereas doulas help with non-medical techniques such as massage and breathing to coach you through labour. Midwives can also perform scans during pregnancy and offer medical advice and assistance during labour.
Still unsure if you really need to hire a doula? Here’s four more facts to help you decide:
Doulas are trained professionals
Doulas need professional training ranging from six to 12 months and countless hours of community service at a Government Maternity and Obstetrics Unit, explains Magdaleen. Qualified doulas are registered with their own practice number. Therefore, doctors and nurses are generally happy to work with doulas in the delivery room.
Doulas are for every kind of mother
“The perception around doulas is that they’re only really involved in home births or water births,” laughs Magdaleen. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Doulas are for premature birth mothers, teen mothers, first-, second- and third-time mothers, home births, hospital births and moms who have C-Sections. Yes, doulas are for all moms! They’re there to educate, advocate and support women before, during and after pregnancy.
Doulas help dads, too!
Generally, fathers are nervous and anxious in the delivery room, says Magdaleen. Because every birth is different, dads never quite know what to expect and they find it hard to see their wife or partner labouring through painful contractions. The good news is, doulas are constantly explaining procedures in the delivery room and they help to calm both parents down, raising the chance of a safe, successful birth. Doulas also encourage dads to take an active supporting role – before, during and after birth.
Doulas are proven to lower C-Section rates
Research has shown that doulas help mothers to have higher satisfaction in their birth outcomes. Working with a doula has also been proven to reduce the rate of interventions, such as epidurals, and C-Sections by as much as 40%. “The mothers I’ve worked with always feel calmer in the delivery room, because I’m right there with them for every step of the labour and birth process,” explains Magdaleen. This helps them to feel more in control. “We also protect mothers’ rights and ensure that their birth wishes are followed, providing there’s no risks,” she adds.
For more information on doulas, including how they work and what they cost (this varies depending on the doula or organisation you go through) visit www.wombs.org.za