Giving birth: labour support and doula's role

Like most pregnant women, you probably fantasise about what awaits you during labour and birth. While no labour is perfect, one of the best ways to make it a positive experience is to have people with you who will meet your physical, emotional and informational needs. These people might include your partner, your mother or your best friend.

You could also hire a doula to be with you and your family. A doula is a woman who is trained to help women through labour. She's a part of your birthing team, along with you, your partner, family members, your physician or midwife and your nurse.

What doulas do

A good doula supports your wishes for your labour and birth. She understands all the physical and emotional aspects of labour and can provide you with the information you need as your labour progresses. She's nurturing and comforting and she's well versed in techniques that can help to ease the pain and discomfort of labour. For example, she might suggest a new position, offer a massage or lead you through a special relaxation technique like patterned breathing.

Know your facts about doulas

It's important to understand that a doula is not a trained medical caregiver; she does not give medication or make medical decisions. However, she is apart from the birthing team and can offer you the individual attention and support you need throughout your labour and delivery. She can also help you with breastfeeding after the baby is born and can make visits to your home after you leave the hospital to see how you and the baby are doing.

Finding the right doula

Begin your search at the beginning of the third trimester to give yourself plenty of time. When hunting for a doula, ask the following questions to help determine whether a particular person is right for you:

What is her training and experience with birth? (She should be certified through a national organisation such as Doula UK.)

  • What is her philosophy about supporting mothers and fathers during labour?

  • What types of things will she do for you in labour?

  • Does she have a positive working relationship with the hospital where you plan to give birth?

  • Will she be available at the time of your due date?

  • Does she have back-up if she isn't able to attend your birth?

  • What are her fees?

For more information about doulas or to locate one in your area, visit the website of Doula UK.

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