Updated: Sep 30, 2021
"It takes a village to raise a child..."
In most 'developed' countries there is no village. People are expected to 'bounce back' straight away, be able to train our baby to behave as if it has no needs or attachment, go back to work or go back to our previous childless lifestyle within weeks of giving birth (as if we have no child) PLUS pretend that we love every minute of it. No wonder we have such high rates of perinatal depression and anxiety - we need our village!
We don't see the struggle, we see cultivated and filtered instagram feeds with sleeping babies and tummies sucked into activewear, desperation to achieve some sort of control, all the while perpetuating the myth of perfection. This false image has to be broken down. Let's keep it real. Loads of new parents are emerging from their birth traumatised (30+%) and so many are scared to even leave the house with their baby. How is this going to impact upon the generations of children who are witnessing such levels of stress and anxiety? What can we do about this? How can we nurture our new parents and help to give them confidence and a village they can count on?
This is where a Doula can help. When I am asked what I do nowadays, most people have never heard of a Doula before. Weird word, not really relatable to anything else, people tend to have no frame of reference. The word 'Doula' (DOO-LUH) originated in an anthropological study in 1969, examining the role of constant companionship during birth practices and during the postpartum period. It is derived from a Greek term translated to 'servant-woman' and describes the role pretty well if you ask me
Traditional Birth Attendants
The role of a Doula has actually been around for thousands of years. Throughout history, women were supported by other wise women to help them during birth and also to honour traditions and rites after birth. Many cultures around the world still maintain these beautiful rites and rituals today. The traditional birth attendants are usually people who had given birth a number of times and were/are seen as trusted and knowledgeable when it comes to birth and babies. These women were part of a larger village of mothers who all supported every new mother and arrival. Those new mothers were also able to grow up WITNESSING birth as normal, babies being fed and being ... normal babies. They saw childbearing as a beautiful rite of passage where new mothers were taken care of and honoured by those expert companions
Nowadays, in the absence of a village, the role of a Doula is an absolute necessity. A Doula is described as a non-medically trained pregnancy, birth and postpartum support expert whose primary aim is to provide information, comfort and continual support to you and you partner. They are trained in helping you to understand all about birth, can help you find up-to-date and relevant information and provide non judgmental care. This kind of constant companion is more important than ever, as our maternity care system is so fragmented and with unpredictable government restrictions
In the majority of care settings you will rarely ever see the same Midwife at each appointment and you may not have ever met the Midwife who will be attending you during your labour. Inevitably there is a change of shift so you may end up having several different people who you have never met caring for you. A Doula can bridge the gap here, the Midwife attends to your clinical need and you Doula attends to EVERYTHING ELSE. Your Doula doesn't work for the hospital, they work for you so will be your constant companion throughout and not influenced by any hospital policy
The evidence is clear - having a Doula by your side can have a huge impact upon your birth;
50% reduction in caesarean rate
25% shorter labour (who wouldn't want that?)
60% reduction in epidural requests
40% reduction in oxytocin use (induction/augmentation)
30% reduction in analgesia use
40% reduction in assisted birth (forceps/vacuum)
Improved breastfeeding rates
Decreased incidence of PND
Greater maternal satisfaction
Better parent-infant bonding
"If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it..."
Dr. John H. Kennell
Who wouldn't want all of those benefits?!?! People invest THOUSANDS of dollars and time into weddings, purchasing a car or a pram, and yet many cannot see the incredible link between the monumental experience of birthing their baby and their life to follow. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has a clear directive on the importance of a constant birthing companion, read more here;
Your Doula is an expert at helping you to prepare and navigate your birth. They know how to;
help you work with your body
help you create a safe and calm birthing environment
help you work through any fears you may have
be completely familiar with your birth wishes/plan/preferences
massage techniques and acupressure points to ease the intensity of labour
help you stay hydrated and nourished for the marathon ahead
can suggest positions and movements that help baby get into a great position to emerge
catch your vomit
take photos (not of you vomiting hehe) - these won't be professional quality, though I highly recommend https://birthphotographyperth.com.au/ if you are wanting prof pics
smile and reassure you with quiet calm whispers and affirmations
know when you need a cool cloth or a heat pack
can guide you to up-to-date research and evidence to empower you to make informed decisions
not take anything personally - you can push me away or pull me in at anytime
they can help keep your mind on track and keep you positive when you become overwhelmed
give partners a well earned coffee or meal break
help to tidy up and feed you post homebirth
visit afterwards to check in and debrief the experience and fill in any memory blanks that are often created masterfully by labour hormones (these are also the hormones that make time seem to disappear during long labours and forget things, which is why we tend to go back for more babies!)
After birth, hospital stays are getting shortened, visitors are severely restricted and new parents are being discharged sooner and sooner, often with only short postpartum visits for a week or so. In the Private Hospital system sometimes there is no follow up (other than the obligatory 6-week check) once you go home, even after a CS. This is where having a Postpartum Doula service is a sound investment
Everyone deserves to be held, celebrated and cared for after welcoming their baby into the world. Postpartum support can really fill in these huge gaps in maternity care and can help make those first weeks as positive and enjoyable as possible. People who often choose a Postpartum Doula are first time parents, those having babies close in age, those who have a load of kids, have a partner who needs to go back to work immediately, for Defence personnel, FIFO partners, single parents or those who only have a small support network. A Postpartum Doula can give you the time and space to rest, shower, eat, feed and enjoy your baby. They also see all of those little things that need to be attended to and are a jack-of-all-trades. Helpful things they can attend to can include;
- Debriefing with you about your birth experience
- General tidying, dishes, washing (It never ends!)
- Breastfeeding support
- Newborn care
- Run you a herbal and essential oil foot spa
- Provide you with nutritious snacks
- Establishing helpful baby care routines (*not baby training though - that's not my jam)
- Helping you transition to the 'new normal' of parenthood
- Provide you with resources and connect you to other health care professionals (Lactation Consultants, Chiro, women's health physio etc...
- Dropping to the shops to pick up anything you need
- Assist you with baby-wearing
- Keeping a check on your emotional health
- Cooking meals in your home
- Accompanying you out of the house (even keeping baby close by, while you have a mani/pedi, massage or hair appointment, shopping, health appointments etc...)
- Spending time with older siblings while you attend to baby or rest, or have a hot drink, or a shower, or do a cross-word... you do you!
How Do I Find a Doula?
There is a wonderful Doula community in Australia and you will find one that is just right for you. It is perfectly ok to suss out potential Doulas on your search for the right connection - when you know, you know. You need to feel safe and confident and ensure your needs will be met. There will be a Doula that is just right for you - is it your first baby and you want to have the best chance of having as little intervention as possible? Want to be supported in the early days when your partner goes back to work? Did you have a traumatic birth first time around and need that constant birth companion to help keep you focused and calm? Do you want to go on a deep spiritual journey to find yourself? Want someone to align your Chakras? There will be a Chakra-Aligning Doula ready to assist! Most Doulas offer a free, no obligation meet up to get a feel for a connection so make the most of this and make sure you find the right match
What about my partner?
Doulas and partners make a great team! Your Doula will not replace your partner in the birthing space or try to take over from them - in fact they can enhance the experience of partners! Your Doula is there to be a support for them too, they can help prompt them with ways to connect and support you during birth and also give them a break if your labour is particularly long. Partners are often relieved that they have some back-up and have someone on their team who they are comfortable to ask questions and clarify anything that they don't understand
If you have read all of this I am sure you would agree - a Doula is a sound investment in your pregnancy journey. Check out my link below - I may just be the Doula for you xx
I'm Hayley, I am a mother of 4, I have been a birth worker for over 10 years. It is my life’s work to help new parents have the best birthing and early parenting experience as possible by providing a birthing & postpartum Doula service, and Birth and Early Parenting education. Let me help you navigate this journey with confidence and help you settle into life with your new baby. I am available for in person or online support
I am based in the Perth Hills and cover all of Perth Metro area, regional areas by arrangement