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Health Matters

All About Doulas

March 1st, 2015

With Jennifer Murphy, Kellie Bosch & Michelle Chellew

For as long as women have been having babies, Doulas have been supporting families during the process.  The term doula comes from the Greek language meaning a woman servant.  A birth doula is a trained labour support professional who provides practical, non-clinical support; they help families navigate the sometimes very overwhelming process of having a baby in the hospital environment.

A doula provides emotional, physical, and educational support. She helps the mother cope with labour pains and helps her have a pleasant birth experience, whether the mother wants to give birth naturally, with medication, or is planning a C-section. A doula believes in a woman’s innate ability to birth her baby and will help her summon her inner strength.

A doula will help the family create a birth plan by encouraging them to do all of the research themselves, empowering the mother to make informed choices and then supporting her in those choices.  A birth doula is employed by the family not by a hospital or birth center, thus making the family her first and only priority.

An expectant family should look into hiring a doula as soon as they can.  They should interview several doulas to make sure they find the right fit for them.  It’s very important to surround yourself with people who make you feel comfortable, so you must be very selective.  Expectant parents will meet with the doula three to four times throughout the pregnancy, getting to know each other, forming a friendship and creating a birth plan.  A birth doula will provide several visits postpartum as well to check in on the new family, answer any questions about the birth and ensure breastfeeding is going well if that’s what the family has chosen.

How Does a Doula Help?

Birth is one of the most profound experiences in a woman’s life.  It is something she will remember for all of her days.  It is so important for mothers to feel safe and feel as though they were supported during the process of birth.  A doula will help the family achieve this.

Some of the things a doula will do for a family is protect the mother’s birthing space by trying to minimize the interruptions to mom while she journeys through her contractions.  She will assist them at home by helping them determine when it’s time to go to the hospital. She will then help the family get settled in their hospital room and navigate the many questions the nurses and doctors will have in regards to the birth plan.  She helps the mother relax and feel confident; she’ll squeeze the mother’s hips, and wipe her brow.  A doula provides massage, and assists with the labouring and pushing positions.   She will even sit in the corner and do nothing or take a short walk so as to give the family some much needed private time.  

The doula also helps the father participate in the birth to the extent that he feels comfortable.  If need be she will take the lead but most often will simply offer suggestions to the partner, helping him support mom, and take turns when dad needs a break. Doulas will stay parents from the time she is called until she guides you through your first round of feeding.  Making sure you are never alone, and always offing a word of encouragement, a doulas job is to build up the new mother.   Some labor doulas will take photographs, videotape the birth or write a birth story.  A doula will never make decisions for the family but will always support the family in their decisions.

Benefits of Having a Doula

Research has shown that having doula often decreases the labouring woman’s requests for pain medication, results in shorter labours with less complications, less use of synthetic Oxytocin (a drug used for inducing labour or increasing contraction strength), a reduction in the amount of assisted (vacuum or forceps) deliveries, and the labouring women who were supported by a doula had a lower cesarean section rate.

There are also many psychological and familial benefits such as the mother and her partner having a positive memory of labour and delivery, they adapt easier to the new family dynamic, have more success with breastfeeding, and the mothers have a higher level of self-confidence and a lower incidence of postpartum depression.

The Fort McMurray Doula Association hosts a free prenatal class at The HUB’s downtown location the second Tuesday of every month at 7:30pm.  There are five topics; Birth Basics, Preparing for Birth, Comfort Measures, Common Procedures/Birth Plan Prep, and Breastfeeding.  You can find more information on their website,, or by visiting their Facebook Page.

Tags: Babies, Dads, Moms

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