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What on Earth is a Doula, and why might you need one?

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

I'm not a jeweller.

I'm not a faith healer.

I'm not anti-vax.

I'm not only for the hippies.

I'm not a wannabe midwife.

Doulas have been around for centuries, although they probably weren't known by that name. But recently, doulas are becoming more well known and more popular. So what is a doula, and why are we hearing more about them now?

A doula is, on a very basic level, someone who helps families during their pregnancies, births, and early parenthood. Sometimes called "birth keepers" or "birth workers", doulas are making a come-back after once being a necessity and well respected role back in the times of yonder.

The world has been through many scientific changes in a very short time frame, and we have been through a period of time in which our ancient ways and knowledge has been lost, due to birth crossing over into the medical world. Scientific advancements have been spectacular for helping families conceive, carry to term, and birth their babies, but a part of what birth keepers used to provide was forgotten about. And that is where doulas come in.

We are often most passionate to a nerdy level about birth, being educated about it, and reclaiming birth as something we deserve to be respected for. Perinatal care has, for years, infantilised us, treated us as having a condition rather than going through a process, put us on a conveyor belt, and treated us with a general "one size should fit all" type of care instead of person centred, holistic care. Perinatal care is so obviously created by and for mainly straight cis gender, white pregnant people. This means that LGBTQIA+ people, Black and Brown people, and even people from lower socioeconomic status are being failed due to the system not knowing how to provide care for anyone that doesn't fit into their "box". Doulas worldwide are working on changing this, together with many midwives who are striving to get back to the true meaning of the midwifery role, and bringing perinatal care back to individuals and their families. For some, having a doula that is also non binary, or Black, for example, can not only be comforting and safe for them and their families, but in some cases it can be life altering and saving.

So that's my philosophical view, but practically, what does this look like? Here is just a teeny insight into that.

  • Continuity of care from someone with knowledge, tools, and time.

  • Practical care throughout labour, setting up pools, carrying hospital bags, making food and drink, helping change positions.

  • Supporting the partner.

  • Providing niche types of care such as alternative therapies, birth rights information, advocacy, trauma informed approaches, personal experiences.

  • Care, care, care, love, support, more care, trust.

  • Virtual support to work through questions and queries.

  • Postnatal visits helping with feeding, caring for a new baby, light housework.

This is just a snippet, there is so much that can be provided and there is now evidence to back up why doulas are helpful. Because of the recent resurgence in doulas there have been studies which show that having a doula throughout pregnancy and birth can improve the outcomes for birth, and also reduce the risk of postnatal mental health issues. In the past few years there has been a huge spotlight put onto mental and emotional health, and rightly so. We are seeing the physical effects of neglecting our mental wellbeing, and during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum time, even more attention needs to be paid to our emotional state.

Want to learn more about what a doula accompanied journey looks like? Read about one of my recent experiences here.

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